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Old 14th September 2010
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Pete's Photoshop tricks

I thought I might show some Photoshop and Camera tricks I use from time to time. It may be you know these already: However - some of them I only discovered recently, so one is never to old to learn eh? These apply to CS3 and probably the newer versions as well. Some of the tricks don't work in Elements I'm afraid. I thought Elements was the bees knees until I blew a load of dosh on CS3 and discovered it is both better and faster than Elements...

Anyway - to start with, here is a recent trick, pointed out in a camera magazine this month. Using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment feature in Photoshop. (Don't try this in Elements, as the version there is a bit too crude and from experience gives poor results. The CS3 version sports 8 sliders to Elements 3, so you can be a lot more subtle).

First start with your raw file via ACR. Hopefully you got things reasonably correct in the camera but now is the time to adjust the Exposure slider slightly to get the histogram just up to the left and right limits without hitting the ends too hard...

Here is one I took earlier. Oh dear - there is just too much dynamic range in the image really. I generally use centre weight metering - so the rocks and the sky were fighting to influence the exposure and the result is a compromise...



By the way, I always export from ACR in 16 bit mode to retain maximum information during editing. CS3 is happy with 16 bit images, but I recall some parts of Elements prefer 8 bit mode.

I used the Shadows/Highlights adjutment to pull back the sky and lift the rocks slightly. You can adjust the radius for the effects to minimise the dreaded halo effect, and here are a couple of results with a before and after crop..





Notice how we have pulled back the sky, lifted the shadows, avoided over-obvious halos and generally kept the processing subtle..

Clearly these shots were not suitable for the classic bracketed HDR approach as there's a lot of movement involved - plus: working that close to the sea with a tripod?? I don't think so.

Thinking of HDR and tonemapping, here is another CS3 dynamic range trick I read about. How to force Photoshop to do basic tonemapping when you didn't start with a HDR image:

I started with the usual 16 bit image I get from ACR and I converted it to 32 bit mode, then I changed the mode straight back to 8 bits. Now you get a chance to use Local Adaptation to rescue those highlights and shadows in a different way.



You click on the little button to get more options and there is the curve tool box. Note that I have tamed the otherwise mad curve tool by specifying each dot as a corner - so I get a 5 line correction curve. You can save this curve for your next CS3 session. Obviously the curve won't be right for a different image but its quite a good place to start. I find its easier to work on the tonemapping curve in individual sections by dragging the appropriate corner point.

Coming soon: Sharpening and rescuing really blown skies

Pete
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