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When you are going to work on an image that needs some correction, either tonal adjustments, color corrections or whatever it is that you need to do to the image, it's a good idea just to take a second and kind of evaluate the image and figure out what you might do to fix it. So in the example here, I've got an image that's got two distinct problems. The foreground is very dark and the background is very light. So that kind of tells me that I'm going to have to two different adjustments, right. If I make an adjustment to try to make that background darker, that's going to make the foreground dark too. So I'll have to mask that off or somehow protect that from happening.
To this image here, I'm going to use blend modes to correct the problem. So let's do a little bit of review when I want to make something darker. What blend mode makes things darker? Well, let's begin by doing a self-blend, by doing a duplicate. I'll duplicate this layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J. And if we take a look at the Blend Mode list in the Layers panel, remember which group darkens things? Well, the group that begins with Darken, and I'm going to use my old standby the Multiply blend mode. Let's choose that and you'll see, great, the background looks a lot better but of course, the foreground looks a lot worse.
So what do we do here? We need to mask that off. We'll go to the bottom of the Layers panel, we'll add a layer mask by clicking the Add Layer Mask button and I'm going to get my Gradient tool, which acts as a very big paintbrush here, and we are going to drag a gradient between the foreground and background areas. Remember in masking terminology, black protects, white selects, or black hides and white reveals. So I want to hide the foreground area. So I'm going to click right above this last rock here and drag up and then when I let go, I have created a mask that protects the foreground from this Multiply blend mode on this particular layer. So you can see wherever there is black, don't show the Multiply. If I Shift- click, there is the mask turned-off.
If I Shift-click, again there is the mask turned-on. So now we are going to duplicate this layer that we have set to Multiply, Command+J, Ctrl+J. Now that doubled up the background, right, we didn't want that to get dark again. So what I'm going to do is change the blend mode to Screen, which is the opposite of Multiply. Now we've actually made the background worse, so what I need to do to this layer mask here is invert it, so I get the opposite of it. Right now, the top is white, the bottom is black. If I do Command+I or Ctrl+I on Windows, the background is now protected from the screening of the foreground. So I'll turn that layer on and off and you can see the foreground is now looking much better.
Now if the effect is too strong for both the foreground and the background, you can of course play with the layer Opacity and fine-tune this and adjust this down. If I get my Move tool, press V for the Move tool. I now have a hundred levels of screening or a hundred levels of multiplying because I have a hundred levels of opacity per layer. So if I go to the Screen layer and I think it's making the foreground too bright, I'm just going to press say the 7 key on my keyboard and that changes the opacity of that layer to 70%. Maybe I'll make it 50%. Here is before and there is after, and I'm pretty happy with that.
For the background, I'm going to click on the middle layer here that's been set to Multiply and maybe that sky has been turned too dark. So again I can play with my layer Opacity. Maybe we'll type 6 for 60% and then I can see before and after by turning the eye of that layer on and off. So you can see it's very quick to just duplicate a layer and change its blend mode to start correcting images, and me personally being a visual person, I find it a little bit easier than dealing with the charts and graphs interface of something like the Curves command or the Levels command.
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