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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
Another common problem you'll run into often when working with digital images is you'll often encounter color casts. You maybe weren't paying attention to your white balance setting on your camera or just the lighting conditions ended up giving a slightly red cast, or yellow cast, or blue cast, or green cast to the image, and you want to very quickly neutralize the image and get back to neutral grays, or neutral blacks and whites. There's a variety of different ways to address this problem in Photoshop. I'm going to give you kind of a couple quick ones. First thing I actually recommend is go to the Image menu, and there's three commands that are called the Auto commands.
There's Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color. I'm going to choose Auto Tone. You see what that tries to do is neutralize the shadows and highlights and set a nice overall tone to the image. I'll do the toggle before and after, here's Command+Z and Ctrl+Z and then Command+Z again, so you can see the before and after, just a quick technique to actually preview before and after. Do anything and then just undo to quickly toggle back and forth. So, that was Auto Tone. Auto Contrast, you can see just darkens and brightens certain areas of the image.
It doesn't actually address the color cast of the issue at all. Let me undo that, and then there's Auto Color, which attempts to neutralize the shadows, midtones and highlights of the image. You can see I've got a pretty decent result here to remove that yellow cast. The problem, however, with those Auto commands under the Image menu, is that they are destructive. You're actually changing those values on the actual Background layer itself. Let's go ahead and cancel that menu there, by clicking. You may want the advantage and flexibility of doing this in a nondestructive way, which means you want to learn how to do the Auto commands as an Adjustment layer.
So, I'm going to go ahead and undo this, Command+Z, Ctrl+Z. To get the Auto Adjustments, the Auto Tone, Auto Color or Auto Contrast, you can just choose either Levels or Curves Adjustment layer. I'm going to go ahead and choose Levels for now. The reason you can do this is that there's an Auto button right here. Now if click Auto, this is just going to get us the default Auto setting. What I want to be able to do is play around with those three options that I just showed you: Auto Color, Auto Tune, and Auto Contrast. So, I'm going to click the Reset button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel.
To get to that secret little dialog box, where we can actually play with all three different variations, I'm going to hold down the Option or Alt key and click on the word Auto. This brings up the Auto Color Corrections Options dialog. It's kind of a mouthful. You see, I have three different algorithms. If I mouse over each one of them, I'll get a little tooltip, telling you what each of these radio buttons will do. So, the first one here is Auto Contrast. The second one, if I mouse over that, that's Auto Tone. If I mouse over the third one, that's Auto Color.
Now the good part is you don't actually have to memorize these. You can just click on each of these radio buttons to see which one gives you the result you're looking for. Then you have this additional check box. It's kind of cool. It lets you neutralize the midtones as well, to pull out any color cast in the mid-grays as well. So, I usually typically leave that on, and then I click between these three to see which one looks best. For this particular image, Find Dark & Light Colors and Snap Neutral Midtones is giving me the best result. If I want, I can even actually save these choices as my new default.
So, when I click that Auto button in the Adjustment layer panel, these are the choices that it's going to use, by default. One little additional piece of advice: a lot of Photoshop experts believe that the default values for clipping shadows and highlights aren't quite good enough. So, I'm going to click on the color chip for Shadows, and I'm looking at the CMYK values for black, and the defaults are 75, 68, 67 and 90. What I'm going to recommend you to do is you change these slightly. Leave Cyan at 75, Magenta, make that 63. If I hit the Tab key, I can jump to the Y field to type in 63 there.
Jump into the Tab key again and then for K, for black, I'll type in 95. What this is giving me, a much richer black than the default settings. I'm going to go ahead and click OK, and same thing for the Highlights. Right now, when we clip the highlights, or when Photoshop clips the highlights for you, it's taking the white pixels in the image to absolute white, to absolute 255. You typically don't want that. You want some level of gray, some gray detail, even in the highlights, so you actually see some pixel value there that has some detail.
If you make it absolute white, then you're basically blowing it out to solid white, and you have no detail. You really would only see something like that happen, and it's like a specular highlight, like glint off a chrome bumper or something. That's where it would blow out to absolute white. Otherwise, you want some level of detail there. So, I'm going to change the CMYK values here to 5, Tab 3, Tab 3, 0 just to ensure that there is some pixel detail, even in your highlights. I'm going to go ahead and click OK. The good news is you'll only have to change those numbers once. I'll bring them up onscreen just real quick. Shadows are 75, 63, 63, 95. Click OK.
Highlights are 5, 3, 3, 0 and click OK. Because, when you click OK this last time, Photoshop's going to ask you if you wanted those to be your defaults. Now, it didn't happen on my screen, because I had already chosen it. But on your screen, you would see a check box that says, "Do you want these to be the new defaults?" You would say Yes. Now everytime you click that Auto button, you're going to get those same better results. Let's go ahead and delete this Levels Adjustment layer, and I'll show you now what I mean by clicking that Auto button. I'm going to go ahead and click on the trashcan at the bottom of the Adjustments panel.
Yes, I want to delete that layer, Levels 1. I'll go back to the Levels Adjustment layer in the Adjustments panel, and I'll click that Auto button, and you'll see I get that new result, because I've saved those defaults. So, that's how you get Auto Tone, Auto Contrast or Auto Color as a nondestructive adjustment layer, which can be turned on or off. You can mask it. You can lower the Opacity and blend it back down in the original and so forth, all the flexibility that Adjustment layers give you, but still taking advantage of those quick Auto commands.
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