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2.5: Retouching Workflow in Photoshop

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    The test printing process clarifies what additional global or local adjustments need to be made in Photoshop. You can go back to Camera Raw to make global adjustments; however, if it is necessary to make local adjustments, it is easier to do so in Photoshop (using selections and masking) than it is in Camera Raw. Photoshop layers stack adjustments on separate layers of an image; each of these layers is independent, which allows for non-destructive editing of the image.

    Think of the layers like the layers of a sandwich that are stacked in a particular order. The background layer is the base layer, the bottom slice of bread, and the adjustment layers—the meat, cheese, and vegetables of the sandwich—sit on top of that. Start with the layers for global adjustments (brightness, contrast, and color), and then if you need to make local adjustments, those layers will go on top of the global adjustments.

    Selections for local adjustments can be made based on size, shape, and color. When a selection is active, the changes made will apply only to the selected area, leaving other areas unaffected. An area of the image is selected when it is in the black and white “marching ants” frame.

    Hand holds up a grey card
    Figure \(\PageIndex{15}\): Grey Card in Use. (CC BY; Ansgar Koreng via Wikimedia Commons)
    Image Description: Left hand holds up a grey card against a scene.

    If you make a mistake while making a selection, you can deselect the area and try again.

    • To deselect: Command or Ctrl + d or Select > Deselect

    If the area you want to change is large, it can be easier to select what you don’t want changed than what you want to change. In this case, you need to invert the selection.

    • To invert a selection: use Command or Crtl + I or go to Select > Inverse

    You can make four types of selections in Photoshop: geometric, freehand, edge-based, and color. It is important to choose the selection tool based on the characteristics of the shape and color of the area you are trying to modify.

    Marquee tools (rectangular and elliptical) are best for geometric selections. Because it is rare for any area or object in a photograph to be a perfect square or rectangle, these tools are the least used by photographers.

    The lasso, polygonal lasso, and magnetic lasso tools allow you to make freehand selections.

    • Lasso tool: Click and drag to trace a freehand selection around an area. When you reach where you started, the selection will close. Best used for areas without a defined edge.
    • Polygonal lasso tool: Click to set anchor points for straight-line borders around an area. This tool is a good option for selecting an object with a defined edge.
    • Magnetic lasso tool: A combination of the lasso and polygonal tools, you can click to add additional anchor points or let the tool identify the edge or area of contrast for you. Best tool to use when there is good contrast between the area you want to select and its surroundings.

    For edge-based selections, the quick selection tool is a good option because it automatically finds the defined edges of an image. It is useful for masking hair or other objects with complicated edges. However, it is important to choose the appropriate settings for the desired effect. For the quick selection tool, you can make a new selection, add to an existing selection, or subtract from a selection. The selection will determine what adjustments to some or all of the following settings are needed.

    • Brush size: How big the brush is.
    • Hardness: How solid the edge of the brush is. The higher the number, the crisper the edge; the lower the number, the softer, fuzzier the edge.
    • Spacing: Controls how many selection points are dropped while you drag the brush over a set of pixels (similar to anchor points). Use low spacing for selecting small areas. Use high spacing for selecting large areas.
    • Sample All Layers: Creates a selection based on all of the layers in the image. This is generally a good option when working with a multilayered image.

    The magic wand tool makes color-based selections. This tool selects part of an image based on the similarity in pixel color and is useful for selecting odd-shaped areas that share a specific range of colors. The tool is especially good when the area behind the object you want to select is a different color than the object you are selecting. When using the magic wand tool, consider these settings:

    • Sample size: The default is 5 by 5 average.
    • Tolerance: 32 is the default setting, which selects all colors that are 16 levels lighter and 16 levels darker than the base color. Set to 0 and it selects only one color; set to 255 and it selects all colors or the entire image.
    • Contiguous: Selects only adjacent pixels.

    Making selections by color range tends to have more thorough results. The color range settings are:

    • Sampled colors: Use the eye dropper to select the desired color in the image.
    • Localized color clusters: Selection limited to colors that are adjacent to each other.
    • Fuzziness: Expands the reach of the selection process.
    • Range: Adjusts how far across the image the selection is applied.

    Anti-aliasing smooths the jagged edges of a selection by softening the color transition between the edge pixels and the background pixels and is useful when cutting, copying, and pasting selections to make composite images. This option is available with the lasso, marquee, and magic wand tools; however, it must be chosen before making the selection. Once a selection is made, you cannot add anti-aliasing to it.

    Feathering blurs edges by building a transition boundary between the selection and the pixels surrounding it. Note that blurring can cause some loss of details at the edge of the selection. This option is available for the marquee and lasso tools when in use, or it can be added to an existing selection. The feathering effect becomes apparent when you move, cut, or copy the selection.

    Masking is a nondestructive way to hide parts of an image or layer without erasing them entirely. It is useful for making edits to specific areas so that the entire layer is not affected. You can use any selection tool or adjustment layer to create a mask.

    Select and Mask is the best option when the object you are selecting is very complicated because you can refine your local adjustments without making a new selection. First, use one of the selection tools to make a section. Then, choose Select and Mask from the menu bar to open the image in the Select and Mask editing window. Here, there are options to smooth the outline, feather, contract, or expand the selection. Select from the Output To menu to apply the desired output to the selection.

    Quick Mask tool allows any tool in Photoshop to become a selection tool. When selected, you can paint, use the gradient tool, etc., to make a mask that is applied to a selection, which then can be used with any adjustment layer.

    Although capturing accurate colors in-camera saves post-production time, Photoshop is incredibly useful for color correction, and the process is relatively simple. You can go back to Camera Raw to make global color adjustments but for local adjustments, Photoshop is best. For example, if you notice a cyan color cast in the photograph, you can only remove it in Photoshop.

    To get the most accurate color in post-production, using a grey card while you are taking pictures can be helpful. A grey card is a small card that is 18% grey. If you have used a grey card in the image, you can follow the following steps to color correct.

    1. Open a test image that contains your grey card in Photoshop and create a Levels Adjustment Layer.
    2. Next to the Levels histogram are three eyedroppers. Select the middle eyedropper and click on the grey card. Photoshop will automatically adjust the image’s color levels.
    3. To apply the grey card settings to other images taken in the same lighting conditions, in the Properties tab of the Levels adjustment layer, click on the menu symbol or hamburger icon and select Save Levels Preset.
    4. Name and save the preset and then open the other file(s) for editing.
    5. For each image, find the Load Levels Preset from the drop-down menu of the Levels column and select the saved preset file to apply it.

    Until you have trained your eyes to be sensitive to identifying subtle color casts within an image, you should use a grey card to ensure the most accurate color.

    If you did not use a grey card, you will need to determine what color correction steps to take with the color viewing box. Once you have visually identified the color casts in your image, you will use Photoshop adjustment layers to remove them. Although you may think Color Balance is the best adjustment layer to use for removing color casts, this adjustment layer uses sliders that apply the adjustment in a uniform amount across the entire image. It does not typically create a realistic solution to the color casts.

    Curves is the best adjustment layer to use when color correcting because Curves applies the adjustment as a gradient, ensuring a more realistic transition between colors. Curves also allows you to use an eyedropper tool to specifically target the area of your image that shows the color cast on the histogram. Then you can use the drop-down menus to add or take away the red, green, or blue light that is causing the color cast. You will drag the Curves line up or down depending on whether you want to take away or add more of one color. If you want to restrict the change or limit it to certain parts of the histogram, you can place multiple points along the curve to bend the adjustment so that it applies more or less. This precision lets you add more color in either the shadows, highlights, or mid-tones without making a selection.

    Some information in this chapter is adapted from Adobe's Photoshop User Guide, a valuable resource that provides more in-depth information about the software.

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