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Photoshop: 5 Essential Photoshop Tricks to Perfect Your Photography in 24 Hours

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Photoshop

5 Essential Photoshop Tricks to perfect your photography

Copyright 2015 JOSEPH SCOLDEN

Published by Joseph Scolden at Shakespir

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Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

Table of Contents

Introduction

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Chapter 1: Fixing up a portrait photo

Chapter 2: Removing the Background of Your Photo

Chapter 3: Enhancing Your Pictures’ Colors

Chapter 4: Using Camera Raw (ACR) as a Photoshop Filter

Chapter 5: Creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos in Photoshop

Conclusion

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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[]Introduction

Being able to use your DSLR camera to full effect is great, but it takes more than that to become a master photographer: You need to know how to take advantage of modern software to make your pictures look as good as possible.

Photoshop reigns unchallenged as the premier photo editing software, and this book will teach you the five of the most crucial techniques used by photographers to make their work stand out. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to get the most out of any picture you take, regardless of the scene.

The first chapter will explore how to fix up portrait photographs. As a photographer, you will come across numerous subjects who are suffering from a skin condition which makes their portraits look unattractive. In fact, ‘touching up’ portrait photographs is something that customers expect photography services to do automatically. Photoshop has everything you need (healing and spot healing brushes, patch tool, and blending and blurring tool) to improve and enhance the photographs of your subjects, and in this first chapter, you’ll be taught all that you need to know in order to take an ordinary portrait and change it into a masterpiece.

The next chapter will teach you a photography trick that has been around for decades, but only recently, with software such as Photoshop, has become so refined. You’ll learn how to change the background of the pictures you take. You may already have dabbled into it, but, like many others, come across the hurdle of difficult edges that just can’t be separated. This chapter will teach you to remove tough subject boundaries without much effort, and once you’re done with it, you’ll be able to change the background of almost any photography as needed. The techniques we’ll cover will go from basic selection to layer masks and their refinement.

The third chapter will teach you how to give your pictures a more realistic look by changing the colors present in them. For this purpose, Photoshop has a feature called Photo Filters, which you may already have some experience with. But unlike most other software where the filter is applied throughout the picture, Photoshop lets you add different filters to different parts of the photograph as you wish. I’ll teach you exactly this throughout this chapter.

Chapter four is all about Photoshop’s newest addition – the Adobe Camera Raw Filter. This feature, present only in the CC version of the software, lets you make sophisticated changes to your image (or parts of the image) at any time you want. You can play with the exposure, lighting, white balance, saturation and vibrance using this tool. If you’ve worked with the RAW image files before, you’ll really appreciate the amount of freedom it adds to the workflow. This chapter will give you an insight into how to take advantage of this feature to make picture improvement a lot easier than in the previous versions of Photoshop.

In the last chapter, I’ll teach you a seriously advanced Photoshop technique which will let you add unprecedented depth to your photographs. This is known as High Dynamic Range Imaging, and once you know how to do it, you’ll be able to preserve the detail that was previously lost in your photos due to inadequate or extra exposure. Photoshop has extensive support for this technique, and I’ll teach you sequentially, how to use Photoshop’s tools to create stunning HDR images.

 

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Chapter 1: Fixing up a portrait photo

Photoshop is an amazing tool for touching up the photos you take using your DSLR. But just like any other tool, the final results will depend on how much skill you have with it. This chapter will cover the basics of realistically improving portrait pictures in Photoshop.

The portrait below is of a model – in spite of her natural beauty, there are certain improvements that can be made to her face, from the point of view of a photographer. Her skin has some enlarged pores, and there are dark circles below her eyes. There’s also a black spot present on her neck. Photoshop can be used to touch up the photo to get rid of these imperfections.

Open and Evaluate the Portrait

Once you’ve got the portrait open in Photoshop, it is time to assess the problematic parts before you start.

The areas that need fixing have already been mentioned. There are some enlarged pores on her nose and cheek, and there’s a spot on her neck. Dark circles beneath the eyes can also be seen.

Work Non-Destructively

Make sure that you duplicate the background layer first.

Choose the Spot Healing Tool

The spot healing tool, which has a Band-Aid icon, can be selected from the toolbox. It works by copying tone and texture to nicely blend away minor flaws e.g. blemishes, in the portrait.

Select a basic round brush shape and ensure that it is just a bit bigger than the area you wish to improve. The brush hardness should be set to 50%. A hardness greater than this will result in too harsh a change, while lower values will blend a bit too much.

Also make sure that the ‘Proximity Match’ box is checked.

Now that you’ve set everything up correctly, it’s time to hunt for tiny imperfections which can be fixed by clicking on them just once. They will essentially disappear, blending into the background. For larger imperfections, we’ll be using another special tool in the next section.

The spot healing tool may be great for small blemishes, but it also has its limitations. Make sure that you’re working on a color or texture similar to the imperfection – a sharp contrast in the colors in the region where you apply the tool may result in improperly placed textures or colors. For example, applying the tool on a half-lit and half-shadowed area of a face will definitely lead to problems. Now that we’ve fixed up the tiny spots on the model’s face using this tool, it’s time to move on.

Select the Healing Brush Tool

This tool is meant to be used with larger problematic areas of the portrait, and can be selected from the same toolbox menu as the Spot Healing Tool. It also has the Band-Aid icon (without the dotted circle) next to its name.

Once again, using a simple round brush, choose a hardness of 50% and ensure that the ‘aligned’ box is checked.

This tool will copy over whatever texture you specify as its source. Alt+Click (Option+Click for Mac) on the area (texture) which you want to copy over the affected area. You’ll probably be selecting the same source texture again and again if you’re fixing a large area, because the Healing Brush tool copies over the whole of the source area as you move your brush around on the affected part, not just the exact spot that you Alt+Click’ed on.

I selected a source area toward the outside of the model’s face to replicate, because it is very smooth and pale. But I’ll have to keep on selecting it over and over again to avoid the texture of hair from being copied over to the area that I’m supposed to be fixing.

Here is what the portrait looks up until now. Don’t be concerned by its somewhat unnatural look, since we’ll be dealing with that soon.

Select the Patch Tool

The patch tool is also present under the same menu as both of the healing brushes. You’ll use this tool to get rid of the dark circles under the models eyes. It is also good for portraits that have puffy or crepy skin beneath the eyes.

Using this tool, make a selection of the darkened area beneath the eyes as shown:

Drag your selection to a part of the face / skin which has the tone and texture that you wish to have under the eyes. I’ll be dragging the selection to an area on the model’s cheek, which we have already touched up. I’ll do this to both sides, and finally get this:

Blurring and Blending the Layer into the Background

Now that the basic corrections have been made, it’s time to give some finishing touches. Select the second layer, and navigate to Filter->Blur->Surface Blur. Specify a radius of 2 and a threshold of 20.

Select the Eraser Tool (pick a round brush with 50% hardness), and erase out the lips and eyes at an opacity of 100%. This will keep the mouth and eyes sharply focused.

Use the blur tool (round brush, hardness 50 %), along the edges of the areas you just erased to soften them up a bit.

Next, set the opacity of the Background copy layer to between 40 and 70 percent, depending on what looks best. I opted for an opacity of 60 percent. Once you’re happy with the results, flatten the image and you’re all done.

Take a look at my final result. Notice how the tone and texture varies subtly, which can give away the enhancement to the trained eye of a professional. But in general, the dark circles and skin tone are both remarkably improved. This puts the model’s eyes in greater focus, which was my intention all along.

Chapter 2: Removing the Background of Your Photo

Overview:

It can be quite tricky to change a photographs background, especially if the subject that needs to be taken out has plenty of hair, or if the background is very complex. This chapter will teach you the process of removing a photo’s background, so that only the subject inside it remains, and you are able to place a new background as required. As you keep practicing this with various backgrounds and subjects, your skill will increase, and you will be able to change the backgrounds of nearly all photos you take (obviously, there will be some whose backgrounds are too complex for that).

Start by opening up the picture whose background you wish to remove in Photoshop. I’ll be using a picture of a giraffe with a sky background which has a clear cut boundary between our subject (the giraffe) and the background (the sky).

This procedure will be taught using Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud, but it works the same, more or less, in Photoshop CS5 and later.

Selecting the subject:

After you have chosen the picture and opened it in Photoshop, you’ll have to select the subject completely. You can make use of any of the selection tools Photoshop offers, but for beginners, the easiest ones are the Magic Wand Tool and the Quick Selection tool. You can also use the Lasso tool if you want more accuracy, but it will take longer.

I’ll be using the Quick Selection Tool that is present in the toolbox. Ensure that you are using the Quick Selection tool with a ‘+’ in the center of its cursor by keeping the pressing the Shift key (this means it will add anything you select to the existing selection).

Select the background that you want removed by clicking and dragging across it. If, by accident, you add an unwanted portion of the picture into your selection, you can remove it by press-holding the Alt (Option for Mac users) key to change the Quick Selection cursor to ‘-‘ and clicking on the unwanted area(it will now remove the area you click on from the existing selection). Once removed, press the Shift key again to continue adding more of the background to the selection.

It is okay if you aren’t too accurate with things like fur and hair, since we’ll be refining the edges of the subject’s selection later in this chapter.

Once you’re happy with the selection, right click on it and click on ‘Select Inverse’ in the menu. Now you will have selected the subject instead of the background!

Refining the selection:

Click on the ‘Add Layer Mask’ button located at the bottom of the layers palette (the icon is of a rectangle with a circle in its middle). You’ll see at once that the background is no longer present. It won’t be looking spectacular just yet, but you’ll be able to make it that way via the Refine Mask tools.

Double-click the mask present inside the layers palette (this is the black & white image next to the actual layer for your photograph), and click on ‘Mask Edge’ in the menu. You will now be able to refine the selection via the Refine Mask menu.

Make adjustments to the layer mask to make it look better.

Start by clicking on ‘Show Radius’. You won’t be able to see anything at first, but as you adjust the radius slider, the mask will begin to include the finer details along the edges of your selection, that you weren’t able to select manually using the Selection Tools. This includes the stray hair on our giraffe.

While moving the cursor over the picture, you’ll notice a circle with a ‘+’ sign in the middle. Click-drag it over troublesome areas to pick up the tricky and awkward bits along the selection edges.

Untick ‘Show Radius’ to return to the Refine Mask preview. Use the various sliders to further adjust the mask until you’re satisfied with the results of the layer mask.

To aid in this, you can choose a different view mode by clicking on the small arrow next to the image thumbnail and choosing a mode from the menu that appears.

Changing the background:

If you wish to place a new background behind your subject, do so by opening the background picture in Photoshop and dragging the cut out subject onto this image.

You will have to resize the subject to fit the image (in my case, the giraffe), by using the Transformation mode, which you can access using Ctrl/Cmd + T.

Chapter 3: Enhancing Your Pictures’ Colors

Enhancing your picture’s colors

This chapter is going to cover techniques on tinting and enhancing the colors in your photograph through the Photo Filter feature present in Photoshop. If the Photo Filter isn’t Photoshop’s most popular feature, it definitely deserves to be. Besides being easy to learn and use, it is also the only Photoshop feature which allows you to pick colors just by selecting their names from a list. It has diverse uses, which can’t all be taught in a single chapter, so for the time being, we’ll focus on one of its most useful applications i.e. enhancing and tinting the colors present in an image.

At its most basic, the Photo Filter tool is used for cooling or warming the overall colors of the image, but because we will be using the adjustment layer version that includes an inbuilt layer mask, we can mix several Photo Filters to enhance and tint particular areas in the photo individually.

I’ll be working with the following image. As can be seen, the picture is of a sunset in a snowy region, but it has been taken using a camera (or camera settings) that failed to capture the colors accurately. The sky should have a pinkish / purplish hew and the snow on the ground should have a warm orange glow. It is likely that the photo was taken using a digital camera, which is why the colors ended up this way.

Because of Photoshop’s Photo Filter feature, I was able to faithfully recreate the colors of the sunset the way they should have appeared, resulting in an excellent desktop background.

The colors now look a lot sharper and brighter now, which increases the visual appeal of the sunset scene, and all that it required were a couple of straightforward Photo Filter tweaks. Time to begin!

Region Selection

As I’ve said before, I’ll use a two Photo Filter adjustment layers to improve the colors in particular areas of the picture separately, and I’ll start by tackling the sky. Before I apply the first Photo Filter however, the sky needs to be selected. Use any selection tool at your disposal (Pen Tool, Lasso Tool etc.). I used the Magnetic Lasso Tool for this purpose.

The selection outline should be visible in the picture above.

Photo filter adjustment layers

Having selected my sky, I’ll add the first Photo Filter. In order to do this, I’ll click the New Adjustment Layer icon present at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Next, I’ll click on ‘Photo Filter…’ in the menu that pops up. The Photo Filter dialog box will now appear, and because we selected a part of the image before adding the filter, only this part will be affected.

Picking the color for tinting the selected area

The Photo Filter works on the concept of how photographers manually added colored filters to their camera lenses in order to tint their photographs. The same effect can be achieved in Photoshop, with plenty of extra flexibility, since we can choose virtually any shade we want.

There are two ways to pick a color. The top of the dialog box has two options, Color and Filter. Both have the same purpose i.e. to let us pick a color for tinting our image. The difference between them is that ‘Filter’ lets us pick from a list of presets that include some common cooling and warming filters, whereas the ‘Color’ option simply displays the Color Picker and lets us pick exactly the color we require. I’ll stick with the ‘Filter’ option since they’ll do fine with our example, and it is intuitive that the sky is a more purplish, pinkish color than what the image is showing. Unluckily, there is no preset purple or pink color that we can choose, but there is magenta, which will do just fine, so ‘Magenta’ is exactly what we’ll pick as our tinting color.

Now that the color is picked, I wish to increase its intensity a bit, and I’ll do this via the Density slider. Dragging it to the right will give the image a stronger tint, while dragging left will result in a subtler tint. You can view the effects of dragging this slider in real-time as your image gains a variable tint. I’ll choose a Density of 30%.

Remember to keep the Preserve Luminosity option in the lower left corner checked so that your image doesn’t get darkened as you apply the filter. When you’re satisfied with the filter you’ve applied, click the OK button in the Photo Filter dialog box to exit. Here’s what my sunset scenery looked like after the application of a 30% Magenta filter to its sky:

Now the sky appears to be more colored. I might have gone a bit further than the real scene, but the overall effect is still pretty realistic. Now the ground looks a lot less colorful than it should be, but we can’t make it purple or pink as well! It requires warming up to an orange tint, which means that a second Photo Filter is in order.

I’m already done with the sky colors, and wish to modify the colors on the ground with a different tint, which will require a second Photo Filter adjustment layer. Because I only wish to change the colors of the ground with this Photo Filter, I’ll need to select it first. But because I already selected the sky, the ground won’t take long to get selected as you’ll see:

Click the Photo Filter’s layer mask thumbnail present in the Layers panel.

If you observe closely, you’ll see that the top portion of the thumbnail is white whereas the bottom is black. The white area indicates the portion of the picture being adjusted by the Photo Filter (as was obvious from the changed picture). The black area indicates the part of the picture which is unaffected by the adjustment layer (the ground wasn’t tinted magenta when we applied our first Photo Filter).

Load the original selection back into the picture by Ctrl+clicking the layer mask thumbnail (Command+click for Mac users).

Presently, the sky is selected, but I want to select the ground below it instead. I’ll do this by inverting my selection via Shift+Ctrl+I / Shift+Command+I. This will result in all the things that were selected getting unselected, and all the things that were unselected getting selected. Put another way, I have flipped the selection so that the ground is now selected instead of the sky.

Add the second Photo Filter Adjustment Layer

With the ground selected, I’ll add the second Photo Filter in exactly the same way as I did the first:

Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select ‘Photo Filter…’ from the menu. A second adjustment layer will be added above the original one in the Layers panel and a Photo Filter dialog box will pop up just like before.

Pick the color for this Photo Filter

The ground will look better with a warmer tint, so I’ll have to add a warm color such as orange to it. Luckily, cooling and warming pictures is precisely what the Photo Filter was originally made for, and instead of having to choose ‘Orange’ from the color list or Color Picker, I’ll simply go with the default filter i.e. ‘Warming Filter (85)’.

There are a couple of other Warming Filters present as well - ‘Warming Filter (81)’ and ‘Warming Filter (LBA)’, but the first one will do fine in this case. The ‘Density’ value is 25 percent by default, which isn’t quite enough for warming up our sunset, so I’ll drag the slider to the right while keeping an eye on the image, until I’m happy with the ground’s tint. The ground, lit by the setting sun, looks fine with a warming filter of 85% intensity.

I’ll now click on OK to exit the Photo Filter dialog box. Here’s what it looks now:

If you accidentally end up applying the warming filter to an unwanted area, simply paint it out using the Brush Tool.

Pain the undesired areas black to hide the effects of the filter. It may look like you’re painting over our actual image, but what I’m really doing is painting over the layer mask. Basically, anywhere you paint black on a layer mask will be hidden from view (in this particular case, it will hide the effects of the adjustment).

Select the brush tool from the Tool’s palette and set the Foreground color to black. You can change the size of the brush using the left and right bracket ‘[‘ / ‘]’ keys. Combining these two keys with Shift makes the brush softer (left) or harder (right). As you paint over the areas that have the undesired warmth, notice how the original color of the picture returns.

Now we’re doing with our enhancement and tinting, but there’s more to it than that. The contrast of the picture will need some tweaking, and I’ll include this as a bonus step in this chapter.

Bonus step: Improving the contrast using a Curves Adjustment Layer

This is a completely optional step, and you may not have to apply this to each photograph you correct. I’ll finish enhancing my original picture by boosting its contrast by means of a Curves adjustment layer and what is frequently called the ‘S’ curve, for no better reason that because this is shape it takes (sort of). It isn’t really necessary to have a mastery of Curves in order to do this step. If you’re able to click and drag using your mouse, you can use this trick to give your images a nice boost in contrast.

Start by selecting the topmost layer in the layers palette, since the contrast adjustment needs to apply to all of the layers in the picture. Now click the New Adjustment Layer icon and choose Curves… from the menu.

Photoshop will add the adjustment layer and a ‘Curves’ dialog box will appear. By default, the grid in the dialog box will be 4×4 boxes – make it a 10×10 boxes grid by holding down the Alt (Windows) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and clicking anywhere inside the grid.

You’ll be able to see a line running from the lower left corner to the upper right corner of the grid. We will reshape this line into an ‘S’ to give the picture a boost in contrast. In order to do that, click near or at the grid intersection point at the upper right corner. A small black dot will appear on the diagonal line at the place where you clicked. Now, drag this dot a little upwards using your mouse, or if you prefer, you can nudge it upwards using the Up are key on your keyboard. As you nudge or drag it higher, you will be able to see your image becoming increasingly bright. Don’t drag it upwards too much though, or the image will start to lose detail because of all the brightness. I’ll give the image a slight brightness boost by nudging the dot up a few times.

Now we need to do just the opposite to the lower left corner of the Curves grid. Click the mouse near or at the grid intersection point in the lower left corner and drag or nudge the point down using your mouse or keyboard. Regardless of how you do it, you should try to lower it as much as you raised the point in the upper right corner. As you do this, you’ll notice how the diagonal line now takes the shape of an ‘S’, and you’ll also observe how the dark parts of the image become increasingly dark. I’ll use the Down arrow key to nudge the point by the same amount as I did the one in the top right corner.

Once you’re finished, click on OK to exit the Curves dialog box. We have now enhanced the contrast of the image by darkening the dark areas and brightening the bright areas of the image using the ‘S curve’. And, as promised, you didn’t have to know anything about the complex workings of the ‘Curves’ to do so. Feel free to use this technique to improve the contrast of any image you want.

My image is now fully enhanced and as you saw for yourself at the beginning of the chapter, it looks much better than the original.

Chapter 4: Using Camera Raw (ACR) as a Photoshop Filter

A new feature in Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud is the Camera Raw filter. You can use this filter to make powerful non-destructive changes to your image.

What does the Camera Raw Filter have to offer?

The Camera Raw filter is a new addition in Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud, so you should skip this chapter if you’re using an older version of Photoshop. It lets you use most of the features present in Adobe Camera Raw from inside of Photoshop

You can use this with any image, even files with formats that aren’t supported by ACR, and on any layer. In other words, you aren’t bound to be working on an image that can open in ACR. You can apply the Camera Raw filter at any point while working with the document, not just when you’ve opened the image.

Combine this Camera Raw filter with Smart Objects, and you’ll be able to make changes using the filter which you can revise at any point, if so needed.

How does it work?

To get any idea about how the Camera Raw filter works, you can open up any picture you want in Photoshop CC.

To give yourself the freedom to revisit and modify the changes you make using the filter, begin by converting the desired layer in to a smart object. Do this either by right-clicking the layer and then selecting Convert to Smart Object in the menu, or by going to Filter -> Convert for Smart Filters.

In both cases, you’ll end up with a layer converted to a Smart Object. By using a Smart Object, you’ll be ensuring that the adjustments you make now can be edited later on.

If you have several layers which you wish to apply the Camera Raw filter to, select all of those layers together in the Layers palette before changing them into a single Smart Object.

Apply the ACR filter by going to Filter -> Camera Raw Filter. This will open the current layer inside ACR.

Now you’ll be able to make changes to the image using the tools that ACR puts at your disposal.

For example, you can change the white balance by using the White Balance tool and clicking on something in the image which should be a neutral grey shade. You can’t easily fix the white balance in Photoshop itself. Other useful changes that you can make are Shadows, White and Blacks, Highlights and Clarity – settings which can easily be accessed in ACR, and are less easily applicable directly in Photoshop. In fact, there is no way to adjust the Clarity in Photoshop other than using ACR.

You can also use the Gradient Filter and Radial Filter for adjusting the image. After you’ve made the changes, click on OK to apply them and get back to Photoshop.

“Autumn-Forest-Scenery” by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

Note that the Smart Object layer in Photoshop will have its own layer mask which you can use to adjust the effects you’ve just applied to your image. Paint on the mask with black to remove the effects and with white to apply them again. This technique is useful for changing the effect of a Gradient Filter where certain unwanted objects have been included that you wanted to keep unaffected.

“Autumn-Forest-Scenery” by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

You may also change the Camera Raw Filter settings whenever you want by double clicking on the Camera Raw Filter entry in the layer’s panel. This will open the layer in ACR once more so you can make the necessary modifications.

The benefits of using it

The Camera Raw filter has some major advantages for Photoshop users. Firstly, you can use the ACR filter to sharpen the image while utilizing the Masking slider as you do it. This allows you to restrict the areas of the picture which get sharpened to just the edges in the picture and not the areas of flat color.

You are also able to use tools which aren’t there in Photoshop such as Radial Filter, Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter and Clarity.

The Camera Raw filter also lets you easily work with a JPEG in ACR. You could also open the JPEG in ACR at the very start, but if you forgot to do so, you can easily apply the Camera Raw Filter at any time during the course of your work to get more or less the same amount of functionality.

Other tools open to you through the Camera Raw Filter are the Split Toning effect, presets, post crop vignette, chromatic aberration and defringe, upright correction and noise reduction. These are quite advanced tools and cannot be covered in a single chapter. For the time being, this introduction to Adobe Camera Raw filter will do fine.

If you have saved your image in a format that preserves the layers e.g. PSD, you can open your document at any time and modify the filter you originally applied.

If you are already familiar with using ACR filter to process your DSLR’s raw images, you will discover that the new Camera Raw Filter adds a lot more flexibility to your workflow.

Chapter 5: Creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos in Photoshop

What is the big deal about HDR pictures?

This chapter will explore HDR photography. High Dynamic Range Imaging was originally use in 3D rendering (you may have come across it as a setting in modern video games, which, when turned on, gave the screen a more realistic, vibrant lighting effect). Recently, however, this technique has become popular with photographers as well. At its most basic, it involves taken photos at several exposure settings and then combining them into a single 32 bit image.

Your camera is only able to capture a limited amount of tones in one photo (this is called the camera’s dynamic range i.e. the range of tones which can hold the detail between pure white and pure black). Normally, we sacrifice elements in a picture when we specify the camera’s exposure. We meter it according to the most essential part of the scene we wish to capture. As an example, take a look at the three shots of the same scene below. Each shot was made at a different setting of exposure – going from underexposed to overexposed. The middle image in the second row has been shot under normal exposure, which are averagely metered to result in the greatest detail possible. Also, the underexposed images lose some of the detail due to certain regions being too dark. Were you actually at the scene, you would have been able to see all this detail with your eyes since the human eye can sense a greater range of tones than a DSLR camera is able to capture on its sensor.

HDRI-Example”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HDRI-Example.jpg#/media/File:HDRI-Example.jpg

The solution to this dilemma is to take several photographs of the same scene and bracket them together. Shoot one normal exposure image, one underexposed image (to capture the detail in the brighter areas) and one overexposed image (to capture the detail in the darker areas). Now, merge these photos into a single picture which contains a larger tone range that shows all the details of the highlights and shadows.

In this chapter, you will learn how to do this in Photoshop with as little trouble as possible.

HDR Photography Tips

You’ll need to start by capturing the source images with your DSLR camera. You will need a minimum of at least 2 photos, shot at different exposure settings, to make an HDR picture. I always take three – one underexposed by 2 f/stops, one normal exposed and one overexposed by 2/f stops. This might seem like a bigger bracket than some may be happy with, but it works great for cityscapes. If you want to take pictures of people, you may want to lower the bracket down to single stops.

In some cases, you may have to capture more than three exposures. The number of pictures at different exposures that you’ll have to take really depends on the amount of contrast present in your scene. On a sunny day, with light coming in from glass windows, you may have to take as many as 7 photos (each 2 stops apart) to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. On a foggy day i.e. low contrast setting, you may do away with just a single frame. But in general, you should stick with at least 3 shots. Set your camera to Auto Exposure Bracket with 2 stops give and take. Ensure that the only thing you change is shutter speed – since changing the aperture will cause the DOF to change, which may lead to unnecessary blurring in your final composition. You may want to use a tripod, depending on the scene, otherwise you can support yourself against a solid object e.g. a wall to reduce camera shake between frames.

Note: For genuine HDR, you should not use a single RAW image and give it different exposures as some people may recommend. This isn’t needed, since you can utilize the Shadow and Highlight recover and adjustment brush in Adobe Photoshop’s Camera Raw, or Lightroom to extract the same amount of detail from your RAW photo. In addition to this, there has been some misinformation going around, under the name of ‘Single Image HDR’. This is better called pseudo-HDR i.e. this isn’t real HDR! You can’t get High Dynamic Range from just one Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) picture. An analogy is like single speaker stereo – the necessary digital information simply isn’t there. You might be able to get a grungy look from your picture by applying a tone-mapped effect, but it certainly won’t be true HDR.

HDR in Photoshop

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 1:

Begin with your three images, one with normal exposure, one underexposed and another overexposed. Use bracketing as you see fit, depending on the type of picture you’re taking. I frequently shoot cityscapes, where 2 f/stops work fine since the scene comprises mostly of flat surfaces where posterization and banding isn’t an issue. If you’re capturing curved or rounded surfaces, you’ll want to lower the bracketing to achieve smoother gradients, but there will be a lot of overlap in the tones since a modern DSLR camera has a dynamic range of 11 f/stops.

After having specified the bracketing, set the camera to burst mode. Hold the shutter down to capture three photos one after the other. Be sure to shoot in the RAW format to get the greatest dynamic range possible. Even if your camera doesn’t support capturing in RAW, you can create an HDR. Keep in mind, though, that a JPEG is only an 8-bit file (i.e. contains lesser amount of detail).

Ensure that you’re shooting in either Manual or Aperture Priority mode. You need to bracket the exposure time and not the Aperture. Changing the Aperture will result in an inconsistent DOF which will cause blurring in the final result. Also try to avoid moving subjects in your photograph, since they will lead to ‘ghosting’, where the subject will be present in just one of the frames and will appear very strange in the resulting HDR photo. Looking at the three images below, you’ll be able to see that the last one (normally exposed) has lots of detail. However, the detail in the darker part of the trees in the far bank is lost, and some information is also lost in the brightness of the floating branch and the clouds. Fortunately, the underexposed image (first one) picks up the detail lost due to brightness, whereas the overexposed image (second one) picks up the detail in the shadows.

"Autumn-Forest-Scenery" by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 2:

Now we’re going to combine these photos into a single 32-bit picture.

Go to File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR Pro. This technique works for Photoshop versions CS2 through CS6. Note that the CS2 version of this tool doesn’t have auto alignment capability, and it is called Merge to HDR on versions CS4 and older. Select either the folder or the images. I’ve put each set of photos into a separate folder so I’ll stick with the Folder option. Select the pictures you wish to merge. If you have Photoshop CS3 or later, enable Auto Align. Now Click OK. (Auto-align technology lets you make HDR pictures even if you weren’t able to use a tripod to get all the photos in sync

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 3:

Your pictures will now get merged into one single photograph. You can also deselect specific photographs by unchecking their corresponding boxes on the filmstrip to the left. If the result contains blurring because of camera shake during the longest exposure shot, you might want to turn that photo off. If the result contains ghosting, enable the Remove Ghosts box.

While the mode is 8 or 16 bits, you’ll see something like this:

"Autumn-Forest-Scenery" by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 4:

Once the images have been merged, a 32 bit floating point picture will result. You’ll need to change the mode to 32 bit now. The available tones can be viewed by sliding the White Point slider – this won’t actually change the image, it is only there to let you view the dynamic range of the image, since a monitor isn’t capable of displaying the entire tonal details of 32 bit image in one go!

"Autumn-Forest-Scenery" by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

Note: In the Creative Cloud (CC) version of Photoshop, there’s a new feature available known as ‘Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw’. It isn’t present in the previous versions. If you’re using CS6 or older, skip to Step 5 right now.

If you’re using CC and the ‘Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw’ button is enabled, you will be unable to move the White Point slider. Turn this option off and you’ll be able to move it just as with the older versions of Photoshop.

But when this option is enabled, you can use Camera Raw for Tone Mapping rather than HDR Pro settings. If you want to use Camera Raw for Tone Mapping, jump to Step 8b right now.

However, I’ll advise you to learn both methods as each has its own merits. ACR has the advantage of letting you perform highly realistic HDR tone mapping without much effort, whereas the HDR Pro tone mapping route will give your greater control and let you create a surreal effect, besides powerful HDR options.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 5:

You could perform the tone mapping right now if you wanted, but it is better to save a 32 bit negative first. Click on OK to merge the photos into a single 32 bit picture. Save your file into a TIF, PSD or open EXR.

If you’re going to work with 3D and wish to use HDRI for IBL environments, lighting etc., save the file as open EXR since 3D packages like Maya are able to read this format. 3D designers need not proceed further, and photographers who didn’t get a word of the last paragraph need to follow the rest of the steps to get their HDR photo!

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 6:

You need to convert the photos to 8 or 16 bit images before you can use them. Think of this as creating interpretations of the HDR photo. The reason I refer to them as interpretation is that there are infinitely many ways we can make this photo appear. This is due to the huge dynamic range we have available in 32 bit, but once we convert the HDR photo, we won’t have it available. You should make it a rule to work with a saved 32 bit version and then convert and save the 8 bit / 16 bit interpretations. Do not overwrite the master 32 bit version since you may need it again.

Choose Image -> Mode -> 16 bit / 8 bit. It is now time to play with the more interesting options. This is the tone mapping part of the process where you can let your creativity run free.

(If you wish to make the adjustments without having to convert, go to View -> 32 Bit Preview Options. You can utilize many of the tools present in the Image->Adjustments menu. The important one here is the Exposure control)

You’ll be able to see an HDR Toning dialog box (it will be called HDR Conversion for CS5 or older). Exposure and Gamma are the default options. The best way to do this will be to adjust the gamma first, and then set an appropriate exposure. If you wish to have a picture with plenty of contrast, bring the gamma down. If you want little contrast, bring it up. Once you’ve done this, change the exposure to set the brightness you desire. If you wish a greater amount of control, go ahead and read the next steps, or click on OK to convert the image now.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 7:

Set the Method to Local Adaption. There are a total of four methods at your disposal, but only two of them allow for user input. Local Adaption is one of the two.

Local Adaption enables you to play with some advanced Tone Mapping sliders, as well as adjust the curves. Using curves isn’t absolutely necessary since they are only needed for fine tuning the other settings. If you spent some time working with curves in the previous chapter, you may appreciate the freedom the larger dynamic working range brings.

Edge Glow

Adjust the strength and radius sliders to ensure that there aren’t no halos present in the picture. Poorly done HDR images have a glow around contrasting areas. The radius determines the mas blur whereas the strength determines how strongly the effect will be applied.

Tone and Detail

Gamma: This lets you adjust the contrast. The extremes either get super punchy or washed out.

Exposure: This determines the overall brightness.

Vibrance: This gives the photo more color with oversaturating the areas which already have colors.

Saturation: Decreases or increases the overall amount of color in the picture. Be careful not be too lax with this control.

Click on OK to convert.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 8:

Now we’ve got a fully merged image from the High Dynamic Range 32 bit file. Photoshop can create excellent HDR images

"Autumn-Forest-Scenery" by J.David Kirubaharan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/9251971651/

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p<>{color:#000;}. Step 8b:

HDR and Camera RAW (applies to Photoshop CC)

A new development in Photoshop CC’s Camera Raw lets you manipulate 32 bit pictures. This is great news since you can now utilize the adjustment brush to fine tune specific parts of the photograph while you work in the 32 bit environment.

In Step 4, we had opened the Merge to HDR dialog box

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p<>{color:#000;}. Select 32 bit mode from the dropdown menu if it is in 16 bit or 8 bit mode.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Enable the ‘Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw button’. The button at the bottom right will now change from ‘OK’ to ‘Tone in ACR’.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Click this button and the picture will now open up in Camera Raw. Here you’ll be able to do all the normal adjustments that you could using Camera Raw, with the added luxury of being able to work on a 32 bit High Dynamic Range image that has a lot more detail available in its shadows and highlights.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Click on OK when you’re done.

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p<>{color:#000;}. The image is still in 32 bit mode, so you can do more tone mapping (called double tone mapping) if you want to, by going back to Step 5.

If you are satisfied with the current results and feel that no further tone adjustments are needed on your image, you can convert it to 8 bit / 16 bit and finish things off like you would with a regular image. Go to Image -> Mode -> 8 or 16 bit. This will cause the tone mapping options to pop up, to maintain the same appearance as was in Camera Raw. The Method should be set to Exposure and Gamma. Set the gamma to 1 and exposure to 0. Click on OK and voila. You’ve just created your final image!

Note: If you aren’t able to get HDR toning tools to work in Photoshop CC, it is normally due to a preference setting. Go to Preferences -> File Handling. An option will be present which says ‘Use Adobe Camera Raw to Convert Documents from 32 bit to 16/8 bit’. If this option is enabled, when you go to File -> Mode, you’ll be able to access Camera Raw. If it is turned off, you’ll be limited to using the standard HDR Toning options.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You’ve now reached the end of the book, and if you’ve practiced everything that I taught you in the last five chapters, you more than deserve to be a part of the pros club. Making the jump from amateur to professional can be intimidating, since photography software contains so many advanced tools that you just don’t know where to start – this was the case for me at least.

I wrote this book to ease my fellow photographers’ transition to professional photography. However, always bear in mind that a professional never really stops learning. New techniques are added and old ones improved each year, so you’ll have to stay ahead of the game in order to remain a pro.

This book was never meant to be exhaustive, but it definitely provides you with the knowledge of powerful tools that you can build on by exploring Photoshop and all that it has to offer. Have fun wowing people with your photography skills!

p.s. Click Here To Get A FREE Photography EBOOK!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My goal is to help anyone that reads my books to have the ability to capture life’s amazing moments and, more importantly, make their pictures look phenomenal. My books are priced at $2.99 or lower so I can help the most amount of people have great success in photography. I truly care about your success and will do everything I can to help you improve your skills

My books are very different from most photography books on the market. First, My books are “short and to the point”. I talk about the most essential things that I believe will help you the most. Additionally, I make the sometimes-complicated subject, photography, simple.

I want anyone that enjoys photography and desires to improve their skills to download my books because I truly believe that I have something to offer and that the they will benefit a lot from my books.

When I am not writing, I enjoy photography, going to new places, and spending time with family & friends.

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Photoshop: 5 Essential Photoshop Tricks to Perfect Your Photography in 24 Hours

Perfect Your Photos Using These 5 Photoshop Techniques Download now to learn how to make your photography look so much better by using these advanced Photoshop techniques This book covers multiple ways to make your photography, taken with your DSLR, look so much better by using Adobe Photoshop and all of its advanced features. This book covers in depth how to use all these techniques and it includes photos to show you exactly what to click on. Additionally, this book uses multiple photos to show how these techniques will make the photo look better. Inside You Will Discover… - How to fix up a portrait photo - How to remove the background of your photo - How to enhance your picture’s colors - How to use CAMERA RAW (ACR) AS A PHOTOSHOP FILTER - How to create High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos in Photoshop - AND MUCH, MUCH MORE! What the heck are you waiting for? Smash that DOWNLOAD button, and start producing professional quality photos!

  • ISBN: 9781310182303
  • Author: Joseph Scolden
  • Published: 2016-01-05 02:40:26
  • Words: 8738
Photoshop:  5 Essential Photoshop Tricks to Perfect Your Photography in 24 Hours Photoshop:  5 Essential Photoshop Tricks to Perfect Your Photography in 24 Hours