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Photoshop is the world’s most powerful image editor, and it’s arguably the most complex, as well. Fortunately, nobody knows the program like award-winning book and video author Deke McClelland. Join Deke as he explores such indispensable Photoshop features as resolution, cropping, color correction, retouching, and layers. Gain expertise with real-world projects that make sense. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download Deke's free dekeKeys and color settings from the Exercise Files tab.
All right, finally we are going to deal with the Shadow Noise inside this image. I have saved my modifications thus far as Slightly smoother.psd and I am going to Zoom way in on this eye here, so you can see what I am talking about. Notice in the Shadows, the darkest regions of the image, that I have brought out a lot of noise, that is random variations between neighboring pixels, and this is very common when you start retouching an image. And the reason is, when you start brightening Shadow detail, you are very likely to bring out noise, because Shadows begin with very few luminance levels as generated by your digital camera.
So they have already been exaggerated by the time they get to Photoshop. Whether you are coming from a JPEG File, in which case the camera has done the exaggerating, or whether you are coming from Camera Raw, in which case Camera Raw does the work. The Shadows have already been stressed to a high degree. So once you start brightening them in Photoshop, they are likely to get stressed even more, and then you are going to see Noise, and you also may see weird color aberrations, like purple Shadows are very common, bluish Shadows as well. Anyway, here is how to get to that Shadow detail in Photoshop.
Now, this is a little bit advanced, but I feel like you should know about it and you can just follow this recipe, if you want to, inside your own images and it will work. The first thing you do is you go to your Channels panel and you go to the Red Channel, and that's what I recommend for your portrait shots, is the Red Channel here. And that's because as orange people, we all resonate most brightly inside this Red Channel. And to load this channel as a selection outline, that's what you need to do, so we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, because this is pure masking people, what you do is you press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and you click on that Red Channel.
That loads it as a Selection. All right. Let's go back to RGB now and you can zoom out a little bit if you want to and move this guy over, because we are going to need to keep an eye on it. Now, what we have done is we have selected the Highlights tapering down into the Midtones, inside of this image. That's what happens when you convert a Channel to a selection outline. We want the opposite; we want the Shadows tapering up into the Midtones. So go to the Select menu and choose the Inverse command or press Ctrl+Shift+I, Command+Shift+I on the Mac. It won't look any different, it will look like exact same selection outline.
That's because you are just seeing the threshold between what's selected and what's not, but you will notice that your cursor appears differently inside this area than it did before. Now that you are inside the dark noisy region, assuming that you have a Selection tool active as I do, because I was working with a Lasso tool. All right. The next thing we need to do is we need to smooth off this selection outline. This is a very noisy selection, because it was generated from a noisy channel. So the best way to smooth is to go in here to Refine Edge. We could just use Smooth and Feather, but if we use the Refine Edge command, we can see what we are doing.
So you either get to it by clicking the Refine Edge button here in the Options Bar or you go to the Select menu and you choose the Refine Edge command or press Ctrl+Alt+R, Command+Option+R on the Mac. That brings up that dialog box that we saw in the previous chapter, with all these options that we are going to come to in a later chapter. But for now, here's what I want you to do. Change your view to Black & White, and you can do that by pressing K if you want to, and now you are going to see a masked version of this selection. So in other words, anywhere where you see White, that's selected, anywhere you see Black, is deselected.
Light grays are somewhat selected, dark grays are mostly deselected and so on. And you can see how much noise we have inside this selection. So we need to smooth things out. I am going to click off and I am going to change this Feather value to 2, to blur the selection, and then I am going to press Shift+Tab to back up to the Smooth value, and I am going to take it up to 20 and press the Tab key in order to get back to Feather. So what we did with Smooth was the same thing we were doing essentially inside Dust & Scratches; we are averaging neighboring pixels.
And that's the same thing that's happening with the Smooth command when you apply it to a selection outline as well. It ends up rounding off corners. So Smooth, Dust & Scratches, Averaging, all that stuff is very similar inside of Photoshop. All right. So this is what we want, Feather value of 2, Smooth value of 20. We just wanted to see the Mask View, so we could see what was going on. That's why we selected Black & White. We are done. Click OK. It's going to go back to the marching ants selection outline, but you will notice you get rid of all those choppy edges. So this is before, Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, lots of choppiness at work here.
And this is after, Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z again, much smoother. All right. Now what we need to do is return to the Layers panel and again we are going to copy the composite image inside this selection. By going up to the Edit menu and choosing Copy Merge or press Ctrl+Shift+C, Command+Shift+C on the Mac. And again, we are going to Paste it. Go up to the Edit menu and choose the Paste command or Ctrl+V, Command+V on the Mac. And we now have this layer right there, very translucent layer, as we can see indicated by the Checkerboard Transparency in the background. Go ahead and rename this guy, smooth shadows is what I would suggest, and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac, and now we need to do the smoothing.
You do that by going to the Filter menu, choosing Noise, and choosing Reduce Noise. Really great function inside of Photoshop. I have given it a keyboard shortcut if you loaded Deke keys, of Shift+F9. And now what I am going to have you do is just enter these values. Don't worry about how Settings is set to Strong right now, just enter these values, Strength of 5, Preserve Details: 0, Reduce Color Noise: 50, and Sharpen Details: 0 as well. You can leave Remove JPEG Artifact turned off, because that's not our problem.
So 5, 0, 50, 0 is what we are looking for. If you want to save off your settings, you can by clicking on this little floppy disk, but we will come to all this stuff later. Click OK in order to smooth out that detail. And notice how much more smooth it is. This is before, so I will go ahead and Zoom in a little more closely. And this is after we have applied the smoothing to just the Shadow Detail. Now, that ends up filling in the pupil a little bit; this is before, and this is after. So what I recommend you do there is you reduce its Opacity value to something like 70%, something along those lines.
And then let's zoom out, so that we can see what we have done here. We have got much smoother Shadows than we had before. We have more homogeneous skin tones. We don't have the eye bags. We got rid of some of the whiskers. We dodged the browse, so that the eyes are a little brighter. We also have this Overlay Paint layer that's correcting some of the details. And just to give you a sense of how radical these changes have been, because each step has been cautious and nuanced, I will go over to the History panel here and I am going to click on Flipped Original; remember that History Snapshot.
That is that Flipped version of the image that we started out with. So in other words, this is before, this is after, thanks to the power of the Retouching tools, here inside Photoshop.
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