Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Recovering skies, part of Nondestructive Exposure and Color Correction with Photoshop CC (2014).
- When working with raw files, one task that's much easier to achieve is recovering a blown-out sky, or lifting an underexposed sky. That's because the raw file contains a lot more information than a JPEG or a TIFF. Here's a classic problem, shooting under a shaded roof out into the sky. Now, the clicking of the auto button will make an initial adjustment, and it did okay on this roof. I think it's a bit bright so I'll pull that down slightly.
The challenge, though, is really the sky area. You'll notice that on the histogram there's really two divides. This area here is describing the thatched roof, and this over here is the sky. Well, I can grab that and start to move it more towards the middle, and you see that many of the details in the clouds are restored. The tough part is dealing with the overall midtones there, though. As I pull the sky down, it gets really dark in the roof.
Now, you can continue to work these two pushing them together, and essentially, we end up with a split between shadows and highlights. What this has done is ended up putting a balance where the highlights are fully recovered and the shadows are fully lifted. Then, dragging the middle exposure, we could find an initial balance that works. Now, I'm gonna bring things down a bit, and really get those clouds looking nice and detailed. Some clarity brings it back, and while I'm mostly happy, what I'd like to do is brush in a bit of an adjustment.
So, using the Adjustment brush, I could turn on masking, and an option that's quite useful is the auto-mask option. Now, as you paint, it will attempt to automatically mask key details, and, you don't have to be completely accurate, but just brush over an edge, and it will try to find the details. There we go. The red color is simply indicating the areas being affected. Remember, you can use a smaller brush to get into a smaller area, to paint in some of those cracks, and if you need to subtract, the Alt key or the Option key is useful to brush over any problem areas that were accidentally affected.
All right, that's looking pretty good. Remember, you can refine the brush by double-clicking on the mask here, and this allows you to adjust the opacity, making it easier to see the masked areas, and, of course, refine the size and the feather. That looks pretty good. Now, I'll uncheck the Mask command, and take a look at this. To me, it feels like the clouds should become more saturated.
And I'll play with the clarity just on the clouds themselves. That's looking nice and dramatic, making a localized shadow highlights adjustment can really increase the contrast between the brights and the darks. I prefer to do it that way rather than overcranking the contrast slider. Additionally, you could brush in a color shift using the temperature controls, or tint, until you get a sky that works. Now, I'm happy with that, and I'm just gonna go back to the overall adjustment here, and refine the total exposure down slightly, and using the Radial adjustment, I'm just gonna pull this in, and set that to be inverted.
Now it's very simple to pull the exposure down in individual corners, and with the heavy feather, it creates a nice transition. You'll note that putting a few of those in just adds a little bit of darkness in, and I'm essentially hand-painting the corners. Be careful as you add those, though, that you don't boost the saturation too much. So I'm gonna set that there, and actually pull this one down just a little bit, and I've dodged the corners in.
It looks good. Remember, all of the other adjustments are totally available to you, so you could take advantage of any Curves-type adjustments that you feel like. Of course, lifting the middle, or dealing with the overall saturation. I'll just go back to a linear curve there for now. You can also making sharpening adjustments. I tend to overcrank it, and then Alt or Otpion drag the mask slider to refine which areas are being affected.
In this case, just the edges of the clouds and of the thatched roof. If I zoom to 100%, you'll see that there's a lot of noise down here in the sky and in some of the shadows. So, increasing the noise reduction, will pull some of that out, and I'll take a little bit of the color noise down. Also on areas of high contrast, you're tending to get some chromatic aberration. If you look quite closely at that fringe there, you'll see little bits of purple and green cast at the edges.
This can be taken care of in the Lens Corrections tab. Of course, you can enable it for the whole image, but it might not be able to detect things, so if you can't recognize the lens, you can either manually adjust, or leave it as is, but, in this case, the color can definitely be fixed. By removing chromatic aberration, and increasing the Purple and Green sliders, I'm able to remove some of the subtle color cast. Particularly look at this zone here, where the small details are interacting without width, and you'll notice that that gentle bluish, purplish haze is cleanly removed.
Just use the Defringe sliders, and you can adjust the amount and range that'll be affected, and that looks a lot better. All right, Control zero, will fit the image to the screen, you could take advantage of any other effects, like a Post Crop Vignette if you'd like, and, if I put the two images side by side, you'll see that the before and after is a very dramatic change. This particular image was picked, not as much for its overall composition, although I do like this feeling of the perspective shot from laying underneath a beach umbrella on a cloudy day, but this really does illustrate the joys and benefits of working with a raw image.
- Performing image-correction triage
- Cloning to an empty layer
- Using adjustment layers and blend modes
- Opening a raw file as a Smart Object
- Making selective adjustments
- Recovering the detail in skies
- Using graduated adjustments
- Fixing exposure
- Saving time with Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
- Adjusting hue and saturation
- Limiting adjustments
- Adjusting shadows and highlights
- Converting an image to black and white