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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.
In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the Exposure Controls, which is the next group of numerical settings and slider bars there inside the basic panel in the Camera Raw plug-in. I have selected Checkers.dng, which is a classically overexposed photo from Chris Orwig of our very own Megan Anderson, one of the many beautiful employees here at Lynda.com where everybody is gorgeous, I tell you. And we do need to correct this image however because it is just blown through the roof in terms of Luminance levels. But the amazing thing is if this were a JPEG or a TIFF image, something along those lines, then we would be out of luck. We can mitigate the highlights, we might go at it with the Shadow/ Highlights command or Curves might prove helpful that kind of thing but we bringing back what's lost. Whereas when you are working with an image that's shot in your digital camera's Raw file format and then open inside Camera Raw, you can bring back blown highlights sometimes, if there is Luminance data there. In other words you are not always seeing all of the Luminance data inside the image, it exceeds our current visible space. So let me show you what's going on there.
I am going to go ahead and open Chekers. dng inside of Camera Raw. Here is the Histogram. It's very worrisome, very troubling Histogram. Black over here on the left hand side, white on the right hand side just like a standard histogram inside the Levels dialog box or the Histogram palette. And you can see this big spike that just jams into the right wall of the histogram, that shows us we got some major clipping activity and also this little warning right there is troubling because when we have a white triangle like that, that means that the data inside of this image is clipped in red, green and blue channels, all three channels across the board, which is as bad as it gets.
But here is the good news. The channels don't really exist yet. Channels don't exist inside of Camera Raw; they are just proposed channels so far. They become color channels inside of Photoshop and the reason is when your digital camera creates a raw file, it's actually a single channel file. It's just Luminance information and that's it. And then Camera Raw is making up the color based on the instructions that the camera gave it. But it's creating three channels from one on the fly.
So that's probably more than you need to know but still it's important because what it tells us is that there may be stuff that we are not seeing. And we can dig into that stuff that we are not seeing. We can rein in those highlights by reducing the Exposure value. So notice as I reduce the Exposure value, look what I did. I brought back colors from the pit of despair. I just brought them back in, these colors over here, did exists inside of the image. It's just that they weren't shown yet, and so they were recoverable.
Now this Exposure setting right here, it's measured in F-stops just so as you know. It's analogous to the white slider handle inside the Levels dialog box, but the big difference is that you can bring back colors back that didn't exist, you can do that with the White slider bar inside of Levels. So it does control highlights though. I want to make that extremely clear and if we continue to drag over to the left, you will notice that we are starting to compress our shadows but black is locked down. So we are compressing the entire histogram as we move this value over. I don't want to make Megan that dark, that's just too much. So let's go ahead and take this value back up here.
I'm actually going to reduce it let's say to something like -1, just for starters here because that does get us our information back, we have recovered the highlights. Now next we this Recovery value which is analogous to the Highlights function inside of the Shadows/Highlights command. It's going to darken our highlights for us. Not just we just did with the Exposure value but it's doing it by comparing neighboring pixels inside of the image. So it's all about recovering highlights obviously. And notice as I drag this guy over I'm redistributing the Highlight values as I'm increasing the value. I'm going to take it to about 20, seems to me to work pretty well for this image. Then I'm going to skip the Fill White for a second will go to Blacks. Blacks is just like, is not analogous to, it's just like the Black slider triangle in the Levels dialog box.
So if you want to clip some of these shadows away or at least darken up the shadows, so that we have some Blacks, then you increase the Blacks value. Now anything with Luminance level essentially of 10 or darker is going to become black and we end up getting some nice blacks right here at the tail end of the histogram. So things are working out very nicely. Now if we just want to sort of rein things back just a little bit, we want to shine a bit of light into those shadows because after all this dress for example that Megan is wearing it's very, very dark around the arms and the boddess and so forth.
So I'm going to go ahead and increase that Fill Light value and you watch her dress, watch how it brightens up right there as I increase that value. I'll take it to about 10 as well, and that's just coincidence that I'm entering the same value for Fill Light and Blacks. There is nothing special going on there. All right I feel like the image overall is too bright, it's a nicely distributed histogram but that necessarily mean the image is going to look the way it should. I think this image should be much shorter. So I'm going to take this Brightness value down precipitously. I don't normally do this but this image was so over exposed that I'm going to take it pretty far down to -15. Now that's too far in terms of the image now looks way, way dark, but that gives me the opportunity to raise this Exposure value back up, and I'm now going to take it up to +0.2 like so.
So you are going to spend a fair amount of time going back and forth and back and forth with these values because each one upsets another value in turn. We have a little bit of co-dependency don't you know. And now I'm going to decrease that Contrast value to +20 like so. And you can really reduce the Contrast if you want to. Notice if I take the Contrast value down to it's minimum -50, I'm squishing the histogram toward the center of the graph, and if I take it up then I'm spreading the histogram out, and we are getting a valley in the middle sort of. But 20 is what I want.
Now I want to tell you something else, Brightness is analogous to the Gamma value in the Levels dialog box. So it's just changing the midtones and you can see that it's kind of moving the whole histogram back and forth as you are changing the midtones, but you are dragging the midtones in order to make that happen. And what did I have this set? -15. And then actually let's try at negative, not positive and then Contrast of course, I already told you about, but here is the deal. Brightness/ Contrast remember the Brightness/Contrast command as I think I explained way back in the fundamental section of the series that it used to be a terrible command and they made it better in Photoshop CS3, well it got better because they stole these two controls from Camera Raw. This is where they came from. They were always good inside of Camera Raw. So they brought them over and made Brightness/ Contrast a good command. Bless them.
Anyway that's it, now you know how Exposure works, just to give you a sense of what we were able to do here, I'll turn off the Preview checkbox. She is like on the face of the sun or something and then I'll turn Preview back on and you see that we have done some very nice things to this image of Megan. I am going to go ahead and Click the Done button to return to the Bridge and it will update the Preview and everything is hunky dory. In the next exercise something else we need to do to this image, we need to straighten it, it's crooked and we are going to straighten and crop this image inside Camera Raw and you will see how brilliantly it works out.
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