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Knowing when edits have gone too far

From: Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

Video: Knowing when edits have gone too far

Photoshop has a lot of useful image editing tools and features, to say the least, and learning how to use the ones that are useful to a landscape photographer is only half the battle; just as difficult, sometimes, is knowing when to stop using them. Photoshop offers so much power and so many options, wrapped up in so many choices, that it's easy to become paralyzed with end decision when editing. Should I do this to an image, should I do that to an image? I know I need more contrast, but how much? While many of these decisions are subjective, there are some objective measures you can use, as well.

Knowing when edits have gone too far

Photoshop has a lot of useful image editing tools and features, to say the least, and learning how to use the ones that are useful to a landscape photographer is only half the battle; just as difficult, sometimes, is knowing when to stop using them. Photoshop offers so much power and so many options, wrapped up in so many choices, that it's easy to become paralyzed with end decision when editing. Should I do this to an image, should I do that to an image? I know I need more contrast, but how much? While many of these decisions are subjective, there are some objective measures you can use, as well.

So there is a finite amount of editing that you can do to an image before you start seeing deleterious artifacts in your scene and other problems. Let's return to this approaching storm image and look at an example. I am going to zoom in here. This part of the cloud that I was increasing the contrast on earlier, as you'll recall, with this adjustment layer right here, I am going to turn it off, I have gone from there to there by way of making the cloud a little more dramatic. But I can go a lot more dramatic than that. If I continue to push the black point, the cloud gets more and more contrast-y.

So where's the point that's too far? If you watch the shadow area here, you can see it go from this, which is very finely defined gradient of ever so subtly darkening tones going from here to here, I can go from there to this, which is a great reduction in tones. Now, I've got mostly just three or four intermediate tones. That nice smooth gradient that's been in there has dropped out into almost bands of color, and a whole bunch of intermediate tones have fallen out to a complete black.

From a purely subjective standpoint, that just looks too dark. It doesn't look realistic. But setting that aside for the moment, we can also look at a more objective benchmark, which is the reality of this situation was a fairly fine, soft gradient. I don't want to get too far from that. I don't want to lose too many tones in there. Tone breaks and posterization, the process of a fine gradient being reduced down to just a few simple number of tones, that's a sign that an edit has gone too far.

I don't want to go much farther than here, even though I've got all of this range over here that I can drag through, but I am bumping into the limits of what's going to preserve a decent gradient. This is going to be true on clouds, on pieces of chrome and flesh tones. For a landscape shooter, particularly dealing with skies, particularly dealing with the very subtle gradients that can appear in a sky, it's very, very important to keep an eye on when those gradients are breaking down into a far simpler set of tones.

If you hit that point, then you've pushed your edits too far, and you need to back off of them. If you have reduced the glow of the sunset on a horizon down to a single shade of orange, you have created an entirely unrealistic image, and created edits that defy what the viewer is expecting to see. You need to back off from those. When you're using that as a benchmark, you suddenly find yourself in a much more limited editing environment which is good in some ways because it means you're not overwhelmed by all the possibilities that could arise from all of these different tonal adjustments.

I've got the realm of possibility narrowed down to these fairly slim latitudes of what makes up a good gradient and good tonal content. So that's an excellent way of knowing when your edits have gone too far, when it's time to back off a little bit, and knowing when to back off will perhaps get you out of that paralysis of too much choice, and decisions that are too difficult.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography
Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

59 video lessons · 22149 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 44s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
  2. 46m 35s
    1. Defining landscape photography
      2m 23s
    2. Considering cameras and gear
      10m 41s
    3. Shooting and composition tips
      6m 39s
    4. Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG
      4m 25s
    5. Making selects
      10m 42s
    6. Understanding the histogram
      6m 53s
    7. A little color theory
      4m 52s
  3. 1h 14m
    1. Opening an image
      4m 42s
    2. Cropping and straightening
      9m 56s
    3. Nondestructive editing
      6m 23s
    4. Spotting and cleanup
      3m 53s
    5. Cleaning the camera sensor
      11m 17s
    6. Lens correction
      6m 26s
    7. Correcting overexposed highlights
      7m 29s
    8. Basic tonal correction
      5m 45s
    9. Correcting blacks
      11m 54s
    10. Correcting white balance
      6m 35s
  4. 21m 34s
    1. Performing localized edits with the Gradient Filter tool
      7m 24s
    2. Performing localized edits with the Adjustment brush
      7m 54s
    3. Controlling brush and gradient edits
      6m 16s
  5. 16m 34s
    1. Working with noise reduction
      5m 33s
    2. Clarity and sharpening
      5m 23s
    3. Exiting Camera Raw
      5m 38s
  6. 58m 5s
    1. Retouching
      8m 23s
    2. Using Levels adjustment layers
      10m 59s
    3. Saving images with adjustment layers
      4m 18s
    4. Advanced Levels adjustment layers
      9m 36s
    5. Guiding the viewer's eye with Levels
      8m 48s
    6. Using gradient masks for multiple adjustments
      5m 32s
    7. Correcting color in JPEG images
      3m 15s
    8. Adding a vignette
      3m 25s
    9. Knowing when edits have gone too far
      3m 49s
  7. 33m 24s
    1. Preparing to stitch
      5m 59s
    2. Stitching
      7m 39s
    3. Panoramic touchup
      7m 17s
    4. Shooting a panorama
      4m 58s
    5. Stitching a panorama
      7m 31s
  8. 27m 18s
    1. Shooting an HDR Image
      7m 53s
    2. Merging with HDR Pro
      11m 52s
    3. Adjusting and retouching
      7m 33s
  9. 24m 4s
    1. Why use black and white for images?
      2m 26s
    2. Black-and-white conversion
      7m 13s
    3. Correcting tone in black-and-white images
      7m 38s
    4. Adding highlights to black-and-white images
      6m 47s
  10. 49m 32s
    1. Painting light and shadow pt. 1
      11m 22s
    2. Painting light and shadow pt. 2
      12m 42s
    3. Painting light and shadow pt. 3
      9m 19s
    4. HDR + LDR
      5m 7s
    5. Reviewing sample images for inspiration
      11m 2s
  11. 48m 2s
    1. Sizing
      9m 8s
    2. Enlarging and reducing
      5m 3s
    3. Saving
      1m 24s
    4. Sharpening
      8m 23s
    5. Outputting an electronic file
      9m 4s
    6. Making a web gallery
      4m 17s
    7. Printing
      10m 43s
  12. 20s
    1. Goodbye
      20s

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