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- The back story
- RAW processing
- Saving the initial image
- Converting to black-and-white
- Adding a color tint
- Enhancing contrast with Curves
- Cleaning up the image
- Finishing the image
Skill Level Intermediate
I almost always take advantage of my camera's capability to capture in a RAW file format, which means that I'm maximizing the amount of information that I'm gathering with each photo that I take. Of course, capturing in RAW also means that we need to perform special processing on the image before we can work with those pixels directly within Photoshop. I've selected the image I'd like to work on here in Bridge, and so to open the image in Photoshop via Adobe Camera Raw, all I need to do is double-click on the thumbnail for that image. Because it's a raw capture, Photoshop will recognize that it needs to bring up Adobe Camera Raw first and here I can specify the settings that I want to use for processing that raw capture.
My general preference is to save most of my processing work for Photoshop. So that I can use a layer based workflow which is both nondestructive and flexible. And that means that in Adobe Camera Raw, I'm using a relatively small number of adjustments. Mostly, I'm focused on trying to maximize the amount of information in the image. And then I'll optimize the overall appearance of the photo for the most part within Photoshop. Let's take a look at the basic adjustments that I would apply for this image. Generally speaking, I start off with my White Balance adjustments utilizing the Temperature and Tint sliders. And so I'll go ahead and shift the temperature toward yellow or toward blue looking for the best overall color balance.
And in this case, it was a little hazy and overcast and the prayer sticks were in the shade, so the light is a little bit cool. So I'd like to warm that up a little bit. I don't want it to look absurd, I don't want it to look ridiculous, but I do want to try to keep the image a little bit warmer than it was. And so I'll leave the color temperature just a little higher than it originally started at and I think right about there is looking pretty good, I think. I can continue tinkering with the color balance in Photoshop, of course, but I generally try to get the color as close to accurate, or as close to ideal, as I possibly can in Adobe Camera Raw.
I'll then take a look at the tint slider and generally speaking tint would be just a corrective adjustment. I don't want an image to have a green or a magenta tint so this is really about trying to compensate for any tint that might be there. And it looks like right about there should work pretty well. And it's worth noting, by the way, that if you're having a difficult time getting those sliders into the right position you can click inside the text box that has the value and then use the up and down arrow keys to adjust the value. And when I'm adjusting the tint for this image I'm mostly focusing my attention on the weathered portions of the prayer sticks.
Those areas are relatively neutral and so I'll pay attention to those areas as I make the adjustment. That's going to give me, I think, probably the best area of the photo to evaluate as I'm judging the color here. I'll then move on to the tonal adjustments, and I can adjust the overall exposure. I'll brighten things up just a little bit in this case, mostly in order to expand the tonal range to shift things toward the brighter values. I'll then take a look at the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders.
So once that I feel that I have the overall exposure established, I don't want things to get too bright here, but once I have that exposure established then I'll take a look at highlights and shadows first. These effect a relatively narrow range of the brightest or darkest areas of the photo. I'll go ahead and swing the highlights slider through its extremes and mostly in this case what I'm paying attention to is the somewhat shiny portions of some of these prayer sticks and those are catching quite a bit of light. And so I'd like to tone that down just a little bit. So you'll see if I increase highlights, those areas get extremely bright, quite shiny looking. And if I reduce the value for highlights, those areas look a little bit better. I'll go ahead then and take a look at shadows.
And for the most part, trying to maintain a reasonable amount of shadow detail, but also trying to add a little bit of drama, a little bit of contrast to the photo. So I'll probably darken up the shadows just a little bit. And then, I could take a look at whites and blacks. Now, highlights and shadows affect a relatively narrow range of the brightest and darkest areas of the photo. But the whites and blacks sliders are the extreme versions of that. They affect only the extremely brightest and darkest areas of the photo and a very narrow range, at that. So as I adjust whites, you'll see a relatively small effect within the photo because we're not affecting a very broad range within the image.
And then as I adjust blacks, you'll probably see a little bit more of an adjustment compared to the whites adjustment. I'll go ahead and hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh though, while adjusting both the whites and the blacks so that I can get the clipping preview. Trying to maintain maximum detail. So, in this case, there was a little bit of shadow detail that was lost. Whereas, for the highlights based on my existing adjustments, I don't need to worry very much about that clipping. So, I'll leave the whites at a slightly negative value and the blacks, I've actually brightened up ever so slightly in order to retain just a little bit more detail in those shadow areas.
Next I'll take a look at the clarity, vibrance and saturation adjusments, and mostly focus on clarity. If I increase clarity, it sort of reduces any hazy appearance within the photo which can help make the photo pop just a little bit better. With a negative clarity value we get a softening effect, almost an ethereal glow in the photo. So I'll keep this at a slightly positive value, I don't want to overdo it but I would like the image to look a little bit sharper effectively. Clarity is not exactly the same as sharpening, it's more of a localized contrast enhancement, but the effect is somewhat similar to what you would expect from a sharper image, an image that's been sharpened just a little bit.
I'll go ahead and adjust the vibrance as well. And color, in this case, really is not critical to the photo, I'd say. But I do want to boost those colors just a little bit, just to bring out some of those yellow tones in the wood. That's really, for the most part, the only adjustments that I'll apply for this image in Adobe Camera Raw. But I do want to take a look at one other thing, and that's Lens Correction. I'll switch to the Lens Corrections section, and at first glance, you might think that this image really doesn't need any sort of lens correction. This photo was captured with a 24 to 105 millimeter lens at 80 millimeters, so you wouldn't expect any wide angle distortion, for example.
But the objects in the photo are straight lines. And so I want to make sure that they are indeed straight. So I'm going to turn on the lens profile corrections checkbox. And then I'll specify the make, which was Canon. And you'll notice, that based on the metadata, the model of lens and the profile is established automatically. I'll go ahead and turn off, and then on again, the enable checkbox, and you can that see we do have a fair amount of correction being applied to the image. That takes care of the adjustments that I want to apply to this photo in Adobe Camera Raw. I'll go ahead and review my workflow settings and you can see that the color space is set to Pro Photo RGB which is the largest color space available in Adobe Camera Raw. The bit depth is at 16 bits per channel and I've set the resolution to 360 pixels per inch, which is purely a matter of convenience.
This doesn't affect the quality of the image in any way. It's simply a metadata setting that streamlines the workflow when I'm printing the photo. I'll go ahead and click OK to accept those settings, and then I'll click Open Image and Adobe Camera Raw will process my raw capture and open the resulting image in Photoshop.
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