Manage Landscape Contrast, Shadows and Highlights
Evaluating and correcting critical highlights, shadows, and contrast areas in landscapes
In this chapter we're going to perform color correction processes on a wide variety of different kinds of images. And we're going to use all the skills and tools and techniques we've learned previously in this course for color correcting images in Light Room. In this particular project we're going to work on a landscape image. And we're' going to work on this harding ice field image. This is an image that we've seen before, and preformed a few corrections on one part of the image or another. We're going to do the whole image this time and talk about the entire image as a project. So, let's go ahead and make our virtual copy, CMD or CTRL then apostrophe.
Notice we have double stars here so let's isolate these so were looking at just those two images. Then lets take this image to the develop module by pressing D or clicking on the develop module up top and we look at this images overall. We see, like many landscapes, we've got critical highlighting areas somewhere in the, probably in the light clouds, and we've got some shadow area detail that we want to maintain. So, this is a very standard landscape image, but it's kind of special in a way that we've got so much white in here. You know, one of the challenges with working with lots of clouds, an or clouds and snow is you've got lots of whites to pay attention to.
Alright, so, we see we've got highlights and shadows and, we're not sure about the color cast yet but when we move over here, and look at the histogram we see, we've got, not too much data here in the highlight to the quarter tone. We've got most of the data around the quarter tone to mid tone which is all the white clouds and the snow. And then we've got some peaks down here in the three-quarter tone shadow, which are undoubtably these darker areas in the image. So we know we can do some brightening here. We can also see that there's a color cast. And if we want to remove this color cast. It's a blue color cast. We can see because the blue is offset.
From the other histograms and we can see the grey neutral histogram doesn't cover all the way to the edge. So clearly, it's a blue cast and we can corroborate that, of course, by just moving our cursor over some of the clouds, and look at the RGB is 70, 70, 74, down here in a well lit area. 67, 68, 72. And then we also see, this is interesting. We've got a kind of a soft cast shadow area. It's not a deep cast shadow, it's a soft cast shadow. And 53, 56, 62. See, there's a little bit more of a blue cast in the cast shadow area.
And we've discussed this earlier is that, well lit areas and cast shadow areas tend to have sometimes very large differences in color cast, here we have a slight difference. There's a couple of percentage points higher blue cast in the cast shadow area, and we'll see how we'll accommodate that as we move forward. You see we've got some brightening and increase in contrast because of the tonal distribution, and we have a blue cast that we'd like to remove. So our objective here is going to be to neutralize the whites in this image, the neutral whites, the clouds and the snow, and to get started we can just come down here.
We can choose an area of the image that would be representative. And then our first step whenever we do a color correction is we move the color cast first and then work on the tones, not vice versa. Because moving the color cast first lines up all the tunnel values and the highlights and shadow ends. So you're going to end up going back and forth between the two corrections. So we're going to remove the blue color cast and to do this, couple of different ways we can do it, but I like using this eye dropper tool. And I'm going to go ahead and select the temperature and I like to use the eye dropper tool because I can move it over the image and I can watch the RGB values.
Very quickly and easily down at the bottom of this and their nice and big as well. I'm going to start by hitting my up arrow and watching my RGB values until my blue is lowered to the point that the red, the green and the blue are all just about equal. And here we go, we've got a 71.8, 71.8, 71.5. That's pretty darn good isn't it. So, that's nice and neutral there, we can move to various places in the image. 72, 72, 72 that are well lit and then let's take a look over here in the soft cast shadow area. 54, 56, 58, notice we do have a little bit of a blue cast here.
So, we've neutralized the white which is the most obvious portion of the image. But because this soft cast shadow, fairly dominant in terms of the area covered. I'm going to take out a little bit of that, I'm going to kind of split the difference between the two. So I'm just going to lower that blue value a little bit more so that it's about split about half way between the well lit neutrals and the cast shadow neutrals. So that's how we'll deal with that in this case. A lot of times I don't even worry about the cast shadows because they're a small portion of the image, but in this case because they're much larger.
Then I'm going to kind of take them into account. So, I'm going to split the neutralization between the well lit and then the soft cast shadow. Alright, good enough, so we've neutralized the image. We can take a quick peek up here at the histogram, and go yep we sure have, and notice that the neutral gray histogram now covers pretty much all of the image on both ends, the highlight and the shadow. Alright, next step is certainly going to be to come down here and work on the highlights and the shadows. And as you know from our previous discussions, I don't like to use exposure because it tends to move the entire histogram, so I'm going to move down here we're going to start like I usually do with working on the whites.
And we can see here by clicking and then holding on the Option key. Alt in Windows, we drag this until we start to see the areas that light up. And notice, there won't be any blue that comes up. It'll just be some white areas that are going to come up. And there we go. So we can put our eyedropper over this area, which is blown out. And we're going to select the whites, and then we're going to lower the whites value while we monitor the RGB values until they get down to about 95%. Alright? And we want them at 95% because we know that that's going to print.
So we're applying a numeric adjustment here so that we know that when this goes to print, I'm not going to lose any detail in the lightest highlight areas of these images. So that's how we fine tune the highlight values after we neutralize the image. And then let's go right to the blacks. Tab right down to the blacks. Let's take a look here and see where the real dark areas are. Hold down the Option key, Alt in Windows, and drag this. And we can see that the deep shadow areas. Right about in here. So let's go ahead and select the blacks. Put our eye dropper over there, and then we'll use the up arrow to back off until that's gone.
But look at our RGB values. Even when we get rid of all the filled in shadows, things are pretty low. Point five, point three, point five. Even when we get rid of all of that. And notice that we're at minus eight. Let's go all the way back up to zero, which is where we started. Now that we've identified the deepest shadow and look at still less than one percent in some cases. So the question we ask ourselves is that an area that we want to see some detail in, we want to try to maintain some detail? Notice as we move the eye dropper around we do see some changing RGB values, so there is some detail there.
So if we decide no we don't care that can stay solid black to increase contrast across the image in which case we can leave it like it is. Or we can go ahead and just raise this a little bit, until we get values that are up and above the 5% range, which will give us better detail in that deepest shadow area. So it's a judgement call, as it often is, as to how dark and how deep you want this to be. We'll put this at about four or 5%, we still have very good contrast in this image, and there we go. So we've done our color correction, removed the blue color cast.
We have set our highlights at 5%, and our shadows a 95%. And let's do, or hit and press the Y key, and we can see our before and after image. And of course you can move onward from here, you can adjust the contrast if you want to increase or decrease contrast of this image, by adjusting the slider. You can create multiple virtual copies and create fine-tuned variations of this correction as well.
Evaluating and correcting critical highlights, shadows, and contrast areas in landscapes provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Taz Tally as part of the Color Correction in Lightroom
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