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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
I want to talk about how we can use Levels in combination with masking, in order to get the most out of our Levels Adjustments. We are going to be working on this image here corwig_uk_1; you can find it in the Chapter 17 folder. Go ahead and double click that one to open it in Photoshop and then press F to go to Full Screen View mode. Now I'm going to click on my Adjustments panel here and I'm going to choose one of my Presets, in this case Levels, Increase Contrast. All right, great. We have this Increase Contrast, except you know what? I want to push this image even further. Let me go ahead and navigate to the Blue-Yellow channel and I'm going to make this one a little bit more warm and then go to the Green-Magenta channel, add a little bit of Magenta there, okay I'm liking that. Then go back to the RGB Composite view and I'm going to deepen my shadows even more, want those nice and deep; brighten up the whites there a little bit and then modify the overall tone and the mid tones there, that looks pretty good.
Let's look at our before and after, here is before and after. Well I like this. I like how this image looks, except guess what happens? I print this out on velvet fine art paper or matte paper, or one of those rag papers and I notice that, these shadows they are just too dark. I need to brighten those up. In order to brighten those up, I'll click on my Masks panel and I'm going to then target the mask here. Grab my Brush tool by pressing the B key and paint with black. In this case I'm painting with a 100% Opacity black here. Okay great. And I'll go ahead and just click and drag to paint into this area because again I want to brighten this area up. I want to limit the adjustment to this area.
Now when I do that, I say, I like that I'm able to have a little bit more tone there except it just doesn't match because it's so gray. Well, we will fix that in a second. The next thing I'm going to do is lower the Opacity to somewhere below 50% here and I'm just going to paint inside of a board a little bit. Again, I want to bring some of those details back for the print. On Monitor this looks fine, it actually looks great on monitor but when I print it, I just don't have any detail in there. I need that detail in order for the image to look good. All right well now I have these two different adjustments that I have made on my mask. Yet again they are two strong, it looks gray, I don't have the right color on top of it. Well, here is a great masking trick for you. You can change the Density of your mask; I'm going to take this all the way down. Well, now it's gone. The Density or I like to thing of it as intensity is off but then I'm going to increase this and bring this up and now take a look at that. Let's look at our before and after, here is our before and then here is with that mask, after. We are just bringing a little bit of light into that.
Also, take a look at what's happened to your mask. Well, let's undo that by holding down the Option key on a Mac/ Alt key on a PC and then clicking on this mask icon. Well, here you can see my mask is much more gray, now as I increase that it changes the tones that I have used. Basically, it allows me to control the tonal value of the mask, it's kind of the equivalent of applying a Levels or a Curves adjustment right to the mask itself. Now, if that doesn't make sense, don't worry but just basically know you can control the overall Density or intensity of your mask. To bring it back to the normal view, hold down the Options key on the Mac/Alt key on a PC and then again find that sweet spot. You know a lots of time it just subtly backing that off and we can see our before and after here, overall before and after here.
Just want to check to make sure that, that looks good and you know what it does. Now there is one more adjustment that I want to make with this particular image, another Levels Adjustment. So I'm going to go back to my Adjustments and then click on the arrow that will allow me to see the Adjustment list. This time for my Levels Preset, I'm going to choose Darker. Now that darkened up the overall image and I want to darken that even further. Now once I have done that, I say, okay obviously it doesn't look very good. But wait till I tell you what kind of effect I want to create, I want to darken the corners of this image. So I'm going to go ahead and navigate over to the Mask option here. Now in the Mask option I have the ability to press the Invert button, which will then fill that mask with black. Okay that takes it all the way off, click it again to bring it back.
Now I'm doing that to just to get a feel for -- did I go far enough, are my corners going to be darkened up. Well, yeah I did. Next, I'm going to change my brush size, by holding down Command+ Option on the Mac and clicking and dragging. I want a real big brush here. On a PC, you are going to hold down the Option key and the right mouse button and then click and drag. I'm going to then paint with black in the middle portion of my image and I'm just looking to limit this adjustment so that it doesn't affect this middle portion of the image. Let's look at our before and after, before and after.
It's a subtle adjustment yet it's darkening those corners really nicely and here we have the before and after. Now if it's not intense enough, we will just go back to the Adjustments panel and then make it a little bit darker and that looks pretty good there. And then go back to the Mask icon. You can also control the overall Density as well of that mask to control how much of the mask is been affected. In this case, let's say we want to darken the overall image, just a touch there, very nice. Well, in closing we have gone through some advanced techniques here that have helped to improve this image. Let's take a look at the overall before and after.
We will click off the Eye icon. Here is our first adjustment and then we limited that adjustment so that it didn't affect these darker areas and that was especially important because those areas became darker once I added my final adjustment there. Well, now that I see that I have this final adjustment on top, I may want to go back to this mask and then control the overall Density, i.e. brighten that up even more. So I'm just sliding it in a one way or the other to evaluate that and say, yeah I do need to brighten that up a little bit more so that it prints well. In addition, I'm going to click on this topmost layer and lower the Opacity of this layer because I want to back that off a little bit. I want that effect but it was just a little bit too intense. The effect is a little bit more subtle and this image will print well.
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