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- Performing an image-correction triage
- Cloning to an empty layer
- Using adjustment layers
- Opening a raw file as a smart object
- Making selective adjustments
- Recovering the detail in skies
- Fixing exposure
- Saving time with Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
- Adjusting hue and saturation
- Controlling adjustment layers with masks
- Adjusting shadows and highlights
- Converting an image to black and white
Skill Level Intermediate
If you've ever been in the emergency room at a hospital, there's a process called triage where they sort out the patients. In this case, they tackle the life-threatening emergencies, followed by the serious injuries, and then the not so serious. Well, the same general approach can be applied to photos as well, and it's important that you look at your image and decide what's actually wrong. In the case of this photo here, what you're seeing is a complication of problems. First off, there's an easy issue here, and that's composition. I've flagged it with a sticky note, and what you're seeing is that this image isn't properly composed. I'm going to apply the Rule of Thirds to it in a moment.
I also look for distracting elements here and in this case the background is just a little bit taking away from the photo itself. There were some flowers behind the head of the eagle, and the color here is just pulling my eye up from my subject into the background. So I'm going to go ahead and remove some of those distracting elements, both through cropping and desaturation. I'm going to go ahead and tweak the overall exposure a bit, trying to pull up proper exposure here to bring out the feather area in the chest a bit, and then we'll put a little bit of sharpening in the eye region to go ahead and add some details. Let me show you the after state, and I'll just walk you through what was done. We'll start with the base image.
I went ahead and made a basic selection of the tree and the flower, and that selection was used on a Vibrance adjustment. Notice that the adjustment is localized to the image itself. We'll explore these specific selection and adjustment layer techniques in just a moment. I then did a Curves adjustment just to the feathery region of the body, and you see we're able lift out some of the details in the feathers there. Remember, these adjustments are nondestructive, so, you can easily click and continue to refine the adjustment. In this case I'll lift those feathers up a little more, and you see there are the before and after state. I then did an overall Vibrance adjustment to bring out all the color in the image, with no selection applied. In this case we really brought out the yellow of the beak and the red in the mouth, and this is starting to draw the viewer's eye up towards the head region here, because we have a splash of color.
Let's go ahead and make a new layer, and I'll choose the Sharpen tool. I'll use the Sample All Layers and adjust its Strength, and this allows me to sharpen in some of the details around that. You see that can be turned off and on, and it's a nice adjustment there, in that it's working nondestructively. To finish this image out and really draw the focus towards the center, I then applied a Gradient layer. Just using a simple black- to-white gradient. There it is. Changed it to Radial and adjusted the size. Now we put that up on top here and by changing its mode to Multiply, you'll see the whites drop out and it draws your focus in. Now we can easily adjust the opacity of that layer until we achieve the desired effect of a darkening of the edges with a clear center spot of our subject.
Remember, you can go ahead and easily drag that around because it's an adjustment layer, giving you a very flexible engine for creating nondestructive vignettes. There we go. I'll just turn that one off and keep the original one I made, and you see, if we toggle between the two images, it's definitely an improvement. We've cropped for better composition. Notice here we actually have the Rule of Thirds turned on, and so as I adjust my Crop tool it shows me that good composition there. And I've placed the subject at the intersection. All right that is definitely an improvement. I'll put those two images side by side.
We'll do a 2-up Horizontal, and we'll just shrink that back. There we go. And you see that we've improved the overall image. Better composition, clearer center of our subject, a little bit of sharpening, and all the nondistracting elements have been removed. All of these techniques are going to be explored throughout the rest of our lessons. The key here to remember is that you want to look at the image and make a series of adjustments. While our exercises today are going to focus on individual commands, you're often going to have to put several of these commands together to achieve proper results.