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Photoshop Lesson 2 - Photo Corrections and Enhancements

It would be really nice if every picture we took turned out perfectly, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. Until now, you have been taking photos and using them "as is" in your portfolios. This lesson will focus on how to make adjustments to your photos so that they really shine.

Before we begin, take a moment to get yourself organized. Go to your documents folder and choose your Photoshop Folder. Inside of that folder create a subfolder called firstnamelastname-psassign2.

You will save everything from lesson and assignment 2 to this folder.


Get The Files You Need

1. Launch Photoshop from your applications folder

2. Right-Click and Save the 5 photos below to your psassign2 folder






3. Open pslesson2sample1.jpg in Photoshop


Formatting Color Mode

4. Choose Image > Mode

You will get the options seen below:


You will only need to know about three of these options:

RGB - Red Green Blue

This is the most commonly used colour format for digital images (images that will be seen on screens but not necessarily printed.

CMYK - Cyan Magenta Yellow Black

This is the most commonly used colour format for images that will be printed. This does not mean you can't print RGB pictures, but for professional printing presses (like the one our yearbook will be printed on), the addition of an extra colour to the printing plates means more detail and better colour likeness.

Grayscale - No Colour

This options strips the colour out of images and leaves only a range of tones between black and white. When using this mode, one must be careful because you are telling photoshop to discard the colour information from the photo. You can undo this while the document is open, but once it is saved and close, the colour information can not be retrieved.

5. Try Changing the colour mode of the picture to CMYK and Grayscale

6. Use the History Panel Slider (from last lesson) to undo the changes and go back to RGB.



As you can see, the difference between RGB and CMYK is not really noticeable when viewing on the computer screen, but the difference is quite important when printing high quality graphics.


Adjusting Levels

Lighting is without a doubt, the most difficult thing to control in photography. In fact, even when you are very careful to get just the right light for your photo, we find that picture can be too light or too dark in some cases.

For this reason, Photoshop allows us to adjust the levels of light and dark in each photo so that we can correct for poor lighting conditions.

7. Choose Image > Adjustments > Levels

This will bring up a histogram that represents the values of dark and light in the image. You can adjust this by changing the level of the shadows, highlights and midtones of the image.


You will notice that the levels in this image are very uneven. Thankfully, you can use photoshop to correct this.

8. Make sure the preview box fg is checked so that you can see the results as you experiment.

9. Click and Drag the sliders and experiment with the image to see if you can correct the darkness in the image.

Hint: Don't go nuts on the highlights, there is value in adjusting the midtones and shadows even when the image is too dark.

Try to achieve what you see below:



When you are done experimenting, click here to see the values that I used.

Note: There is no set science to making these adjustments, it is more of an art. The more you experiment with different photos and lighting conditions, the better off you will be when trying to make this type of adjustment.

10. Choose File >Save and keep the filename the same (pslesson2sample1.jpg).

11. Close the file, but keep Photoshop open.

12. In Photoshop, choose File > Open for pslesson2sample2.jpg, pslesson2sample3.jpg and pslesson2sample4.jpg

Use what you have learned and experiment to try to achieve the finished results seen below.


13. When finished, save the files so that I can mark you on your experimentation.

14. Do Not Close pslesson2sample4.jpg!


Adjusting A Selection

What you probably noticed in the last photo was that it was impossible to bring up the highlights surrounding the woman without creating a blinding light on the brick in the foreground. In fact, you probably ended up with something this this:


You can avoid this by making the adjustment to a selected area only.

15. Go to the history palette and drag the slider all the way back to the beginning so that you undo any changes you've done to this image.

16. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, Click and Drag across the photo to make the selection seen below:


Note: If you mess up and you need to make the selection again, simply go to the menu bar and choose Select > Deselect or CMD + D to get rid of the current selection. Then you can try the selection again.

17. Choose Image > Adjustments > Levels from the menu bar

As you drag the sliders, you will notice that the levels adjust only in the selected area as seen below:


18. Choose File > Save from the menu bar and keep the filename the same (pslesson2sample4.jpg)

Note: This is a very difficult process to use as you need a clearly defined area to adjust. The rectangular marquee worked in this situation because the area we wanted to affect was rectangular. But What do we do if we can't use a rectagular selection because of the nature of the image. Look at the example below:

Original Image
Rectangular Selection

The answer to this is using the dodge tool


Working With The Dodge Tool

The Dodge tool is used to lighten the highlights of any areas that you choose. The tool works like a paint brush. With each stroke you bring out more of the highlights in the area that you click and drag over.


19. Open the pslesson2sample5.jpg file in Photoshop

20. Select the Dodge Tool rt from the Tools Panel

21. In the tool options bar change the settings to what you see below:


Note: The brush you are using has feathered edges with means that if you click and drag it will apply the highlighting effect heavily in the middle and filter it out towards the edges. This creates a softer look to the effect instead of the sharp difference we saw earlier in the rectangluar selection.

22. Click and drag over the flowers in a circular sketching motion.

Note: Each time you pass over the same area, you will apply more of the adjustment, so try to brush over the entire flower evenly.


Original Image
Dodge Tool used on flowers


Working With The Sponge Tool

The Sponge tool is used to strengthen the purity of colour in any area that you choose. This tool also works like a paint brush. With each stroke you bring out more of the true colour of the area that you click and drag over.


23. Select the Sponge Tool rt from the Tools Panel

24. In the tool options bar change the settings to what you see below:


25. Click and drag over the flowers in a circular sketching motion.

Note: Each time you pass over the same area, you will apply more of the adjustment, so try to brush over the entire flower evenly.


Original Image With Dodging Adjustment
Sponge Tool used on flowers to enhance colours


Applying Unsharp Mask Filter

The last task you should do when retouching photos is to apply the unsharp mask filter. This filter adjusts the contrast of the edge detail and creates the illusion of a more focused image. In other words, it can make the subject of your picture really "pop"


26. Choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask

Note: You can use the + and - signs in the dialog to zoom in and out of the selected image to get a better view of the effect.

rt As you try different settings, click the preview box on/off to see the effects that each slider makes. If you hopelessly mess up the image and can't get it back to looking good, simply choose cancel and start again.

Remember that these adjustments again are more of an art than a science. You have to experiment with the adjustment sliders so that you create a sharp feel while the image maintains it's realism. Too much of this effect and the picture no longer feels real.

Try the settings seen on the left and see if you can do better!

You image should sharpen as seen below:


Not Sharpened


27. Choose File > Save As and save the file with the same filename (pslesson2sample5.jpg)


By the end of this lesson you should have all 5 lesson samples in your folder with the changes we made along the way saved to each one. When finished, go to Photoshop Assignment 2.