Join Taz Tally for an in-depth discussion in this video Project one: Adjusting a landscape, part of Photoshop Color Correction: Advanced Projects.
In this project, I want to talk about color-correcting landscapes. And we've chosen a really nice landscape to look at here. This is Northern Kenai mountains in Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. It's a fall shot where it's beautiful. It's a late September, early October. We've got snow in the high mountains and the higher elevations of 5 to 6,000 feet. The valleys are still nice and warm with beautiful colors. Boy it's a great time to be alive and be a photographer in Alaska. So, obviously what we want to do is here we want to make all these colors pop and it's not a horrible image the way it is, but we wonder if we can do a little bit better.
And just an FYI, this image was shot with daylight color balance in bright daylight, which is typically a mistake actually, because when we do that, images tend to have blue and blue green color cast. Let's see if that's the case here. We can start our evaluations as we always do by looking at our histogram over here. Notice because there's so many colors distributed all across the tonal range, that the interior's not going to be too much of a help to us. Maybe somewhat when we see the offset of the blue, and the green and the red as far as the high peaks are concerned.
But the real help here is going to be in the highlight area, as it usually is. And, we look in the highlight area of the histograms, the individual ones. And, in fact, in the master histogram here, we see the blue is offset and then the green. And then we see cyan right there which is blue plus green. And then the red is backed off the most. So, looks like we've got a blue-green color cast in this image. By the way, when we just look at the overall tonal range distribution of, of values it's pretty good. We wonder if there's maybe some plugging down here in the shadow, but the exposure's pretty good overall, but we do have a color balance problem here.
And I think we can make the colors pop a little bit more if we can get rid of that. So what do we do? Well, let's look for our neutrals as we always do, and let's add our curves adjustment layer, because remember, we like to use a curves adjustment layer because it's non-destructive editing. It gives us control across the entire tunnel range. And let's do our Option or Alt and click and drag on there to find our neutral white highlight point, which is obviously going to be in the snow. So let's zoom in there and we'll place our color sampler point there, and we'll just confirm that that's a good place.
For that, and then, let's go command 0 to go back out and just return that and take a look and see what we've got. 253, 246, 240. Well there we have numeric confirmation of our, blue plus green color cast. and then the red is going to be the lowest. Okay, so let's go ahead and do our initial adjustment based upon that point. And then let's see if there's anything else we can find in terms of a neutral that we could use to set, to do our adjustment. So let's come up to the blue channel.
We're going to pack that first. And we're going to lower that, where our target value, of course, is 242, which is 5% of white highlight. So while we monitor this, the blue value here, we'll just hit our down arrow, to get that to 242, 241. And then let's go to the green channel, which there should be less adjustment because it's at 246. There we go. And then let's go to the red channel which we actually have to raise. So we'll hit our left arrow to raise that to about 242 and there we go. Let's look and see if we have.
Made any improvements in this image. And sure enough I mean just with that highlight adjustment, turn on the adjustment and we can see how the yellows are starting to pop. Look at this subtle slope here. The tundra colors are pretty subtle. And when you put too much blue in there, it just overwhelms them with just this highlight correction that we've got. Already it's making an improvement. Then, you know what I would do is, I would come up here, and I would look and I would see if we can find an area, and let's turn on our hand here. And let's go to our composite, and see if we can't find an area that's still in the neutral.
But down as far in, towards the high edit, as far down the tonal range as we can possibly go. And notice we turn our hand we can see where we are in the tonal range here, and this is still a neutral white portion of the image but it's a little bit further away from the highlight. So let's go ahead and set our color sampler point there and take a look at the RGB values. Now the original values 225, 215, 203 right, confirm in terms confirms what we thought of the blue green color cast and even after the initial adjustment notice that the blue and the green are still high compared to the red.
So, let's go ahead and continue our adjustment. Thus put some colour adjustment points on all the three channels by Cmd+shift+clicking right there, ctrl+shift+clicking. And we know we're going to want to probably lower the blue and raise the red, and we look at these three values. We see the red is low, the blue is high, and the green is intermediate. And when you've got something like this where you don't know exactly what the neutral value is supposed to be, use the intermediate one. In this case, the green channel. So we'll lower the blue and raise the red. So let's go to the blue channel. And that preselects that point we just made and we'll just lower the blue until we get to the green.
Then let's go to the red channel and raise that until we get up to the green value, and now we've got good neutrality right there. Command 0, command minus, take this down so we can see what we've got here. Oh, big improvement. And noticed that when we look at our histograms everything's all nicely lined up about the highlight and the shadow end. And when we look at the before and after here, before and after, before and after. Big change in terms of the overall pop of the reds and the greens in this image. So, it, we didn't have to make any huge adjustments by taking away that blue green color cast, the yellows and the reds really pop out, and really make this image sing, in particularly in the subtle areas.
And, when I do color correction for autumn images, up in Alaska in the Tundra, that's what I really pay attention to,' cause i know those are the most subtle colors, and the most easily overwhelmed by a blue or a blue green color cast. Okay, last thing we really need to do here, let's go back to our composite and let's just look for our shadow area. I think it's probably going to be down in here, let's see, an option and then drag, yeah, the space command and zoom in here and just find our darkest area and take a look at those values. So, right down in here is a good one And we'll return that to where it is.
And let's evaluate this. 8, 12, 11, it's a little bit low. It's close to that 13 value. So let's just raise it up, we'll just hit our up arrow. Just to make sure that all gets above 13. And it does make a difference you can see as you go up just a little bit the shadow detail kind of pops out here. So there we go. So there's color correction of our image. When work with Autumn images like this, I very often like to increase the contrast just a little bit. So let's name this curve the color correction curve, and I'm going to add an additional curve here.
Let's go to curves and we'll call this one the B and C the Brightness and Contrast. So we can separate the two adjustments from each other, and overall I might want to lower the mid-tone value just a little bit, and then raise the highlights, just a slight darkening of the shadow and this gives me overall, a little bit more contrast and the image brings out some of the saturation of the colors. Let's just see, and then finally last thing we want to do is apply a little bit of sharpening, let's duplicate this layer and call this the sharpened layer, and let's go to Filter, and convert to smart filters.
And we're doing this, of course, so we can make this editable. So it converts that into a smart filter layer. Let's drag this down so we can see what we can do. And then come into Sharpen, and let's do an Unsharp Mask on this. And on landscapes like this with lots of high contrast areas, I like to be between 100% and a 200% sharpening. Always a good idea to go to look at the image at 100% so you can see the impact. And notice the edges pop and when we apply some sharpening to this want to be sure not to go too far. We also want to protect the sky.
So i'd at least go to 100% on this, at least 100 and probably go to 150 on this image, and put a threshold of 3 just to make sure we don't get any noise. Some sharpening laded noise being applied to the sky. And there we go okay, and take this down, and when we do this as a separate layer, we can, before and after, before and after. Big improvement both in the color and the sharpness of the image. Alright, so there is color correcting a landscape.