Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Gradient adjustments, part of Restoring Photos with Photoshop CS6.
This particular photo is looking pretty good for an old image. But I do see that there's a bit of a hazy and bright appearance in the background area. In effect, the top half of the image seems a little too bright, and the lower half seems pretty good. And so I'd like to apply an adjustment that only affects the upper half of the image but that fades smoothly through the rest of the photo. In other words, I'd like to use a gradient as the basis of this adjustment. I'll start off by adding a Curves adjustment.
So, I'll go ahead and click the Add Adjustment Layer, button, at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then, choose Curves from the popup menu. I can then apply a basic adjustment to get start. Now, keep in mind, that this adjustment will affect the entire image. And so it's a little bit difficult to evaluate the best final result. The reason that the adjustment layer is effecting the entire image, is that the layer mask which comes with the adjustment layer by default, is filled with white. And in the context of a layer mask, black blocks and white reveals. So since the layer mask is filled entirely with white, the entire image is being affected by the adjustment.
So now that I have a basic adjustment applied to the image, I'll go ahead and create my gradient layer mask, so that the top half of the image is effected, but then we blend down into the lower portion of the image. I'll go ahead and chose the Gradient tool from the toolbox and then up on the options bar, I'm going to switch to the first option which is foreground color to background color gradient. At the moment, my foreground color is set to white and the background is set to black. That happens to be exactly what I want. But if that were not the case, I could press the letter D on the keyboard in order to set the colors to their defaults, and then as needed I could press X to swap the foreground and background colors. I'll then make sure that the layer mask is active, and I can do that simply by clicking on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the layers panel. That way the gradient that I'm about to draw will appear on that layer mask. I'll go ahead and click on the image, and then drag downward. And what this is going to do is create a gradient that goes from my foreground color to my background color.
So the area above my mouse click, in this case, will be white, the area where I stop dragging will become black. And everything below it will be black, but then I'll have a smooth transition in-between. So here you can see for example, that I have a gradation from white to black, with a smooth gradation at about the center of the photo. I'm going to go ahead and hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, while clicking on the layer mask for my Curves Adjustment Layer so that we can see the actual layer mask. You can see that when I drag with the Gradient tool, the direction I drag determines the direction of the gradient and the distance I drag determines the distance of the gradient.
I can go back to the image now. I'll hold the Alt or Option key and click on the Layer Mask thumbnail on the Layer's panel. And now I can set about trying to find the perfect gradation for the photo. Note, by the way, that if I hold the Shift key while dragging, the gradient that I draw will be constrained to a 45 degree angle. So, for example, perfectly vertical or perfectly left and right. In this case, I want a perfectly vertical gradient and I think I want to start around about the peaks of the mountain. So, little below the peaks and then finish a little below of peaks of the trees here.
And that seems to be giving me a good effect. I'll go ahead and click on the thumbnail for my curves adjustment layer, so that I can go back to my curves adjustment. And you'll see that the adjustment now, is only affecting the top half of the image, and it's affecting in a gradient fashion. And so I get a nice smooth transition through to the rest of the photo. So, as you can see, by using a gradient on a layer mask in conjunction with an adjustment layer, I'm able to apply an adjustment that only affects a specific side of the image. In this case, the top down toward the bottom, but it could also be bottom to top, left to right, right to left, et cetera.
The idea is that I'm able to apply an adjustment that gradually transitions into the other side of the photo. So in this case, able to darken down the sky a little bit and those mountains in the background without darkening up the foreground.
- Choosing your source image
- Adding metadata
- Image restoration strategy
- Working with layers
- Evaluating before and after
- Tonal and color adjustments
- Image cleanup
- Adjusting detail
- Saving the master image
- Creating a print or online version