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Photoshop is one of the world’s most powerful image editors, and it can be daunting to try to use skillfully. Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
For this final exercise, I'd like you to open this image right here. It's called water woman.jpg and it comes to us from photographer Catarina Govorova Shenko of iStockPhoto.com. Now, this is obviously a portrait shot, and I'm here to tell you that it's a low frequency portrait shot. Meaning, that they're gradual luminance transitions from one pixel to its neighbor, which gives us rich volumetric detail inside the image, typical of portrait shots. We have very few areas where we have rapid luminance transitions; inside the hair, for example, might be one of them. Down here inside certain areas of the skin, along the teeth, and so on, in the eyelashes, but mostly, just nice rounded sculptural contours.
Compare that to a high frequency image, which would be something like a landscape or a cityscape or a still life, that thing with the scrabble tiles and the wood grain and all that jazz, or even an image of multiple people sometimes falls into the high frequency or middle frequency territory. Now, when you're working with a high frequency image, Smart Sharpen is a great tool, but when you're working with a low frequency portrait shot, High Pass tends to be the better way to work, and I'm going to show you High Pass in this exercise. Now, let's start things off by collapsing my right side palettes and bringing up the Histogram palette, and if necessary, go ahead and update the Histogram by clicking on that little Yield sign, because I want you to see exactly what clipping is going on inside this image.
So notice here inside the Red Histogram, no clipping whatsoever. Here inside the Green Histogram, we have a little bit of clipping and shadow detail. You can see that because we have that spike all the way over here on the left side of the histogram. In the Blue Channel, we also have a little bit of shadow clipping going on. Compare that to the degree of clipping we're going to have in just a moment. Now, the last filter I applied was still Smart Sharpen. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Alt+F, Command+Option+F on a Mac to bring up the Camera Shake settings. I don't want those so I'm going to switch over to Random settings here, which will set Remove to Lens Blur.
Let's go ahead and click on her eye, so we can see her eye, big and beautiful here inside of the image preview. We don't want More Accurate turned on, that's not going to do us any good. It's a little bit amusing though. Here, I'll go ahead and switch over to her nose, because the thing about this woman is she is absolutely gorgeous, she is impeccable, and yet she doesn't hold up to More Accurate. If I turn on More Accurate, we're starting to trace the little tiny hairs on nose. The thing is, of course, we all have that kind of stuff. We just don't want to emphasize it. So turn More Accurate the heck off. All right. Let's go back to her eye and her eyelashes, and I'm going to crank this Amount value through the roof to 400%, and I'll leave the Radius value of 4 pixels, and Remove is set to Lens Blur; that's great. We're not interested in the Advanced Settings. I want you to see the clipping that's going on; clipping in Red on both sides, clipping in Green on both sides, clipping in Blue even.
We didn't have any highlights in Blue and they're still clipping. Click OK to accept that modification. Now, it's going to look like the histogram clams down there, but that's because it suddenly became less accurate. Let's go ahead and update the histogram by clicking on little Caution icon, little Yield sign, and ooh, ooh, major clipping going on in Red, especially in the highlights. Some clipping going on in the highlights in Green, major clipping going on in the shadows. Huge clipping going on in Blue in the shadows, and a little bit of clipping, which is mystifying, because as I said there were barely any highlights there in the first place, a little bit of clipping going on in the Blue channel.
Oh dear, let's undo that, we don't want that, obviously. Also, we're kind of over sharpening her in general. So let's go ahead and undo that modification and here is how I recommend you work instead. Now, it's going to seem patently absurd at first, like we're using the absolute worst filter we possibly could be using, one of those filters that's just mystifying inside of Photoshop, but it's really great. So go to the Filter menu, choose Other, and choose High Pass. I think it's so great, I gave you a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F10, if you loaded my Deke Keys way back then.
So I'm going to choose High Pass. Don't pay any attention to the Histogram right now, because it's just going to look like little volcanoes here. Notice what the High Pass does. High Pass goes ahead and turns everything that's not an edge, this horrible gray, there's just this medium gray, and then tries to keep color and luminance in the areas that represent edges. So notice, right around the teeth, for example, where we had the starkest contrast between the black inside of her mouth and the white of her teeth, we have some black and some white left in the form of 10 pixel halo. So think, that's got to be a sharpening function with a halo like that going on, and that's what High Pass is. It's just a strange little weird sharpening function.
When I'm thinking of Unsharp Mask, I like to think of Gaussian Blurs being the grandparent of Unsharp Mask. Right there in the middle, the parent, is High Pass. High Pass falls in between there. So anyway, I don't know if that helps. I'm going to change the Radius value to 4 pixels, just to match what we saw in Smart Sharpen, so that we have these very thin precise edges to work with. Then I'll click OK. Then you go, okay, well, Deke, if you were worried about your histogram, buddy, that's one of the worst histograms I've ever seen. That's like a needle of a histogram right there. You could hurt yourself on it.
I'll go ahead and update it. It's still bad. You wouldn't hurt yourself quite so badly on that though, it's more of a volcanic sort of thing. All right, though, what we need to do is we need to say goodbye grays. Make the grays go away, make them transparent, and keep those other edges and sort of burn them in to the original image. We can do that using a blend mode. So go up to the Edit menu and choose Fade High Pass right there. Very important. Ctrl+Shift+F, Command+Option+F on the Mac. Now, just so that we have an over the top effect, you can go with Overlay. All of these contrast modes right here will make gray neutral and drop the grays out. So if you choose Overlay, you'll drop out the grays and you'll keep the shadows, you'll go ahead and burn in the shadows, and you'll dodge away the highlights, and you'll give yourself a nice sharpening effect.
Now, it doesn't look like it's done much at all. In other words, it doesn't look that different than the original image before we applied High Pass, but it is. It is different. But if you want to get something stronger, something way over the top, like we were applying 400% inside the Smart Sharpen dialog box, we want to match that, then you advance a few modes to Linear Light. Don't use Soft Light; that will give you a lesser effect. Hard Light will give you a bigger effect and more intense effect, if you want to try it out. Vivid Light will just give you a bad effect. You don't want that. It's going to be weird colors. Linear Light though is going to give you the ultra amped up effect.
Then Pin Light, don't even touch it. Hard Mix, bah. So this is the one you want. Choose Linear Light. Notice how we're seeing a stronger sharpening effect now. You can reduce the Opacity value if you want to, but I want to keep it nice and pronounced, so we're matching the intensity of what we have with Smart Sharpen. So click OK in order to accept that effect. Now, just to make sure that we have a decent histogram, and notice that the histogram looks totally different than it did a moment ago when we were inside the Fade dialog box, it just wasn't the least bit accurate when we were working inside of Fade. Let's go ahead and update the histogram, and notice the clipping that's occurring. Now, we do still have an awful lot of clipping on the shadow detail on the Blue Channel, but nothing, barely anything in the highlights. Barely anything for Green in the highlights, less going on for the shadows as well. Just about no shadow clipping in Red, a little bit of highlight clipping going on.
Now, if we wanted to get rid of some of that, I could press Ctrl+Shift+F again to bring up the Fade dialog box and knock this down to something more reasonable, let's say, 65% for Opacity, and then click OK, and then go ahead and update the histogram once again. You can see that we have less clipping going on. It's still very pronounced in Blue, but we have less going on in the other channels. So you're going to get a more moderated, more suitable sharpening effect for a low frequency image here. Just so that you can see what we've managed to accomplish, I'm going to go to the View menu and choose Print Size, so that we're looking at the image, presumably at the size it will print of course. Then just by way of a comparison, let's go ahead and run a reversion by pressing the F12 key. So that's the original version of the image right there, and this is the sharpened version if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z on the Mac. So it's a fairly subtle effect, but it's a nice portrait sharpening effect overall.
So remember that for your high frequency images, your landscapes, your cityscapes, your still life, your multi -people shots, use Smart Sharpen, it's going to work beautifully for you. For your low frequency images, your portrait shots that you really care about and you really want to make them sing, and you want to make them look great, and you don't want to bring out any bad details, at least consider using the High Pass function. It can really prove to be your friend. If you want more information about sharpening images in general, because this is, believe me, just the tip of the old iceberg here, then please check out my Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images Series, which is available to you here at the lynda.com Online Training Library.
Best of luck with everything you decide to do. My series isn't over, so I'm not saying goodbye to you. Please join me in the next chapter, which is where we'll talk about blurring and averaging here inside Photoshop CS4.
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