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- The ethics of cleanup
- Reviewing the image
- Nondestructive cleanup
- Cleanup tools and techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Gradient adjustments
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures to remove subjects from an image
Skill Level Beginner
At times, you might find that the blemish, so to speak, that you're trying to resolve in an image isn't actually a pixel-based blemish. In other words, it doesn't relate to an object in an image you're trying to remove, for example, but rather an unevenness in Exposure, Color, or other issues. In those types of situations, we can apply targeted adjustments to help even out the image. For example, in this photo, there is a little bit of a bright section over on the left-hand side. Even though the Exposure was relatively even, for some reason, the left side is a bit brighter. Sometimes, you'll see this sort of issue caused by lighting conditions, reflections, or other issues.
But we can use a targeted adjustment to fix such issues. In this case, I think if I apply a Gradient Adjustment, I'll apply an adjustment that darkens the image but only affects the left side in a Gradient fashion. So that, for example, the adjustment will affect the left edge of the image more than it affects the image a quarter of the way in from the left edge. You could also paint onto a Layer Mask to affect such a change. But generally speaking, when I see these kinds of uneven tone or color in an image, we're able to apply a correction with a gradient.
We'll go ahead and get started by adding an adjustment that I think will produce a good result for this image, specifically, to darken up the left side of the photo. So, I'm going to add a Curves Adjustment layer. I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. And I'll choose Curves from the pop up. I'll go ahead and apply an initial adjustment, just so that I can actually see an effect in the image. Keep in mind that this adjustment will, of course, affect the entire image, so it's very difficult to evaluate what you might want that final result to be.
The key is to have a relatively strong adjustment so that we can better see the effect as we're working. With that adjustment applied, I'll go ahead and choose the Gradient tool from the toolbox and then I'll press the letter D on the keyboard to make sure the colors are set to the default values of white and black. Since I'm working a Layer Mask, white is the default foreground color and black is the default background color. I'll then take a look at the Options bar. I click the Gradient pop up and I'll choose the very first gradient preset and that is the Foreground Color to Background Color Gradient. So, you can see that reflects the white and black colors that I currently have established as my colors.
And then I will make sure that among the Gradient Styles, I've chosen the Linear option, the first of those five buttons. I will also check to make sure that the mode is set to Normal and the Opacity is at 100%. I'll make sure that the reverse check box is turned off, so that I get the expected behavior of a White to Black Gradient. I will leave (UNKNOWN) turned on and Transparency, I don't have to worry about in the context of a Layer Mask. Now, I can paint on the Layer Mask. So, attached to my Curves Adjustment, I have a White Layer Mask and in the context of a Layer Mask, black blocks but white reveals. So, because I have a layer mask that is completely white, that indicates that this adjustment, my Curves Adjustment that's darkening the image is affecting the entire image.
But if instead I have a gradient that goes from white to black, starting at the left edge approximately of the image and transitioning off into the rest of the image. Then I'll only be applying that adjustment to the left side of the image with a very smooth transition to the rest of the photo. I'll go ahead and start with a gradient that goes from the left edge of the photo over to about that position right there. So, I'll simply Click and Drag across the photo. That gives me a Layer Mask. I'll go ahead and hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and click on the Gradient so that we can see it. That gives me a Layer Mask that as you can see reflects the gradient that I drew from white to black with a smooth transition in between. I'll go ahead and Alt or Option-click again on that layer mask and then I'll go back to the Curves Adjustment.
So, I'll click on the thumbnail for the Curves Adjustment itself. And if I adjust the settings for that Curves Adjustment, you can see that I'm affecting just the left side of the photo with a smooth transition through to the rest. And it looks like right about there seems to be a good adjustment. I'm going to toggle the visibility of my curves adjustment layer off and then on, and you can see that I've now evened out that Tonality. Now once again, I could have used any Adjustment Layer. I could have changed the Color, adjusted the Saturation, any of the Adjustment Layers that are available could certainly be used in this way.
And I could certainly draw the gradient in a variety of ways, or I could simply paint on the Layer Mask, painting with black in areas where I don't want to adjustment to be visible, and painting with white were I do want the adjustment to be visible. And of course, I can go back and forth. I can refine my adjustment and then go back to the gradient clicking on the Layer Mask first and then Clicking and Dragging to draw a new gradient some more else in the image, for example. But I think in this case, the gradient that I had initially is working pretty well. That gives me a nice, smooth transition. But the point is that I can fine tune both the adjustment and the Layer Mask in order to ensure that the best results possible.