Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Controlling brush and gradient edits, part of Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography.
You can combine the Adjustment Brush and the Gradient Filter to create very complex localized adjustments, and that's what we're going to do here. Right off the bat, of course, you can see another low contrast image. I'm going to adjust my black point here. What should I do next? That's very often the question you're going to face in your image editing workflow, and as I've said before, a lot of times you've just got to go back to thinking about what struck you in the first place. Why did I stop in the middle of this road and get out and take this picture? It was because I liked the symmetry between these lines here and these lines here, then the kind of reflection that's created across the mountains here of those two patterns.
So it would be nice to play that up more. I can hit the Contrast slider. The problem is if I do that, yes, I get some more contrast in here, and I get some more in here, but it's pushed a lot of this stuff into black and so it lost a lot of detail that just looks kind of chunky. So there's not going to be a global edit that I can make here to get those the way that I want them. So, instead, I'm going to start with the Gradient Filter, and I'm going to work on the sky first. I'm going to pull that down. Again, this is creating an effect wherein the full effect of my sliders is hitting up until the green line, and then it's being ramped off along a gradient to the mountains.
So the mountains are not getting any more contrasty, which is okay. They're in the distance. They look kind of hazy. My settings look pretty good, actually. I've got some Brightness and some Contrast dialed in here. These are just settings that were left over from a previous adjustment, so I'm kind of lucky that they work out that well. I've got to be a little bit careful. I'm getting the sky too blue, but I could take that down with a localized saturation adjustment later. Also, as I play with this, I'm starting to see there's some vignetting in the image. I'll take that out later with Lens Correction. So right now, mostly what I'm looking at is if I'm getting the lines in the sky that I like.
I picked up this kind of weird cyan halo around here. I'm not sure that we can do anything. It may be a sign that I had pushed this edit too far. There is not an infinite amount of editability in your image. So, it may be that I need to back that off, but I'm not going to worry about that yet. I'm going to see if I can correct that later with a localized saturation adjustment. The other thing I'd mentioned was it would be nice to have more contrast on the road, but I don't want more contrast in these plants, because they're going to loose detail.
So, I'm now going to take my Adjustment Brush, make sure this is set on New, and obviously the others are not even an option. I don't know where my settings are, and I'm not going to worry about that yet. I'm just going to brush onto the road. It's a nice big brush. I've got a Brightness increase, a Contrast increase, and Exposure decrease. These are basically the same settings that I had with my gradient. So they're not quite right. I am going to pull back on the brightness, and I'm going to really amp up the contrast, again, trying to exaggerate the sense of a bunch of diagonal lines the way that we've got a bunch up there.
This is obviously an image plainly about formal geometric exercise. That's what struck me, and I wasn't feeling some great spiritual attachment to the place at that moment, or experiencing some great emotion. I just simply liked the look of this, and very often that's fine. That's all you need for a good landscape image, or a good image of any kind. I like this darker. As I darken it more, I see that I need more brushstroke in here. So I'm going to go to a smaller size, hit some of those, and now it's way darkened the corners, but again, that's the vignetting problem that we've been fighting.
It's a little too dark though, so I'm going to brighten that up. Also, a little worried that my brush stroke here - if I mouse over here, I can see that my brush stroke is covering these plants, and they've got a little bit too dark. So I'm going to make an Erase stroke, and then I am going to get a very, very, very small brush. In fact, I'm going to zoom in, and now I can erase the correction from these dark shadowy areas. Put the detail back in them. So, by combining the Gradient tool and this Brush tool, and the careful use of new strokes and adding strokes and erasing strokes, I can really get an adjustment that's keyed into just the parts of the image that I want.
So that's looking pretty good down here. I'm done with these local edits, so I'm going to go back here to the Hand tool and start thinking about how the sky just looks too blue. I could do, as we've done before, a global saturation adjustment to drain some color out of the image. Actually, I like this as a desaturated image, but I don't like losing this stuff. So I'm going to do a localized saturation adjustment up there. Before I do that though, I want to remember that I need to take care of my vignetting problem, because it's creating a darkening in the corners that I don't want to be adjusting around.
So, I'm just going to brighten the corners, and that does a very good job of taking out my vignetting. So now, let's go back to the HSL Grayscale tab and grab my Targeted Adjustment tool, and set it on Saturation. I'm going to drain some saturation out of the sky there. I think that's looking a little better. I lost that weird extra-colored halo around it, which is good, but now it's making me think that I've lost some contrast in the sky again.
So I'm going to go back to the Basic tab. Remember, I had made my adjustment in the sky through a Gradient tool. So I'm going to go back to the Gradient tool, select this gradient, and now throw in some Contrast, and that's looking a little bit better. That, of course, has put some blue back into my sky, but I think it looks okay. I'm not going to worry too much about it. If I print it, I may find that I need to go back and tweak it. So, these tools work in concert very well. You need to think about combining brush strokes with gradient strokes.
There will still be some edits that are just very difficult to make within the Camera Raw brush. It's kind of a blunt instrument. You can't see your strokes that well. It's a big brush. You can't change the shape of it and so on and so forth. That's why we have localized editing tools in Photoshop also, and we'll be looking at those in the next chapter.
- Getting the shot: landscape-specific shooting tips and tricks
- Choosing the right equipment
- Cropping and straightening images
- Making localized color and tonal adjustments
- Reducing noise
- Guiding the viewer’s eye with localized adjustments
- Adding a vignette
- Using gradient masks to create seamless edits
- Approaching adjustments like a painter–thinking in light and shadow
- HDR imaging
- Creating panoramas: shooting and post-processing techniques