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Photoshop CS4's adjustment features offer unparalleled opportunities to correct and manipulate images. In Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth, Jan Kabili explains how to use all the major Photoshop adjustment features. She shares the best techniques for adjusting image quality, and shows how to use the new Adjustments panel to streamline a photo correction workflow. Jan also demonstrates multiple ways to eliminate color casts, and explains how to use the new On-Image Curves control to adjust brightness and color. This course offers a detailed look at the techniques photographers and designers use to master image adjustments in Photoshop. Exercise files accompany the course.
When you are in a hurry and looking for a quick fix, the idea of Auto Correction options is really nice. But there are some downsides to Auto Correction. In Photoshop, there are three Auto-Correction commands located here under the Image menu. Here is Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color. The problem with applying these commands from here is that they are commands that work directly on the Image layer, so they are not nondestructive and you really don't have any control over what they are going to do on a particular image. So all you can do is just try them out.
Take a look at this image and you will see it has a slight warm color cast that I would like to correct. So I'll try these Auto Options, Auto Tone might work and it does get rid of a little bit of the color cast, but it's still kind of warming, it's not exactly what I had in mind. So I'm going to press Command+Z, that's Ctrl+Z on a PC and try these others. There is Auto Contrast, which generally doesn't affect color cast. It's just Photoshop's attempt to increase contrast. So I'll undo that one with Command+Z or Ctrl+Z and I'll try the last one, Auto Color, which often is the best bet if you are trying to remove a color cast.
So as you can see in this case, it really does get rid of that gold or warm color cast but it makes it a little bland. It's just really gray now. So I'm going to undo that, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. If you do want to use any of those Auto Correction commands, I suggest that what you do is use them as an adjustment layer rather than as a direct adjustment from the Image menu. Here is how you can do that. You can go to the Adjustments panel and you can add either a Curves or a Levels adjustment layer. Either one has an Auto button in it. Before you click that Auto button to apply an Auto Correction, I strongly suggest that you go up to the panel menu on the Adjustments panel group, click there and choose Auto Options. That opens the Auto Color Correction Options and there are a lot of big words in this box, but basically these are the algorithms that define the three Auto Correction commands that I just showed you.
Enhance Monochromatic Contrast is just like Auto Contrast. So watch the image as I select that and you will see that just like Auto Contrast, this command increases contrast but doesn't really affect a color cast. It's called Monochromatic Contrast because what it's doing is applying the same adjustments to all three color channels. Then there is Enhance Per Channel Contrast, which is the same as Auto Tone and it is applying adjustments to each channel individually. Now sometimes this one works, but sometimes it even introduces another color cast and you never know till you try it.
If you are going to use Enhance Per Channel Contrast, I suggest you give Snap Neutral Midtones a try with it because that will help neutralize any color cast in the Midtones. And then there is Find Dark and Light Colors and that one, when you have Snap Neutral Midtones checked, is just like Auto Color. So in this case we have that kind of grayish result. If you do use one of these Auto Color Correction Options and it manages to remove a color cast as this one has done, you can fine-tune the way that the image looks. So in this case, for example, I like the fact that the color cast is gone but it's too gray. What it's doing is trying to set the midtones to this middle gray that's here in the Midtones box.
So I'm going to click there and change that. Instead of this absolute middle gray, I'm going to select a little bit warmer tone. I'll go to this Spectrum slider and I'll move it up toward the warm tones and then I'll move my cursor over a little bit here and notice that as I did that, I got a little bit of yellow back in the image. I could go even further, maybe something like that. I think it looks kind of nice and I'll click OK and you can see that midtone gray is now changed to a little bit warmer gray.
I can save these as my default settings and I might do that if I had a bunch of other images that I had shot in the same light and the same place and I wanted to apply these as the default for that Auto button in the Levels or Curves dialog box. I am going to click OK though without saving defaults this time and I'm asked if I want to save that new warm gray as the target color for the Midtones and I won't bother this time, but again that would come in handy if you were applying Auto Correction to more than one image. So I'm going to click No. So if you had saved those defaults and you open another image, then you could click the Auto Correct button here and it would apply those defaults to the next image.
So one advantage of working this way is that you have all that control over how those Auto Correction methods work and another advantage is if you look in the Layers panel, you have those Auto Corrections on a Levels adjustment layer. And so like any adjustment layer, you can go back in and tweak them, you can make the layer temporarily invisible, you can change the blend mode, you can lower the Opacity and if you don't want that correction at all, you can change your mind and take the adjustment layer and drag it to the Trash and it's gone.
So that's a work around for using Auto Correction options, but using them in a way that gives you the control you need to get the nondestructive results that you want.
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