||Let the Sun Shine In
Here’s an example of how you can turn a cloudy day into a sunny day, for
an image with more impact.
I took the picture at left of several dancers at a festival in Bhutan. Due to the overcast sky, the picture is flat. But let’s see what happens with
a little Photoshop magic.
Tech info: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Canon 17-40mm lens @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec. @ f/8
I first went to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and
boosted the Saturation to +30.
Next, I chose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast and
boosted the Contrast to +10.
||Now the picture looks as though it were taken on a sunny day. That was easy!
Draw Attention to a Subject
Renaissance artists used a simple technique to draw the viewer’s attention
to the main subject in their paintings: They applied darker oils around the
edges of the scene, leaving the subject in the brighter area. You can simulate that effect in your photographs with Photoshop&mdash,and you
don’t have to be Rembrandt.
Here’s how I used the edge-darkening technique to enhance a picture of
a leopard I took in Botswana. I could have used the Burn
tool (press O: Mac or Win) to darken the edges, but that approach would
have taken a long time (and it would have been difficult to burn the edges
evenly). The following method is easier and provides an even burn around
I first selected the Elliptical Marquee tool (press M: Mac or Win), clicked inside the image, and created an oval around the main subject.
||Next, I chose Select > Inverse to select the area
outside the oval. That’s the area that will eventually
I chose Select > Feather to bring up the Feather
Selection dialog box. For my 300 ppi, 5x7-inch
picture, I selected a Feather Radius of 250
because I wanted a very, very gradual transition
between the darkened area and the untouched
Now it was time to evenly darken the edges of
the picture. I went to Layer > New Adjustment
Layer > Curves and pulled down the curve from
the center of the grid until I was pleased with
the effect. (If you’re in CMYK
mode rather than RGB mode, you need to pull
the curve up.)
Here’s how my leopard photograph was
enhanced using this technique—with a little
extra help from the Burn tool, which I used to
darken the out-of-focus twigs in the foreground (click to enlarge).
The late Ansel Adams, a film photographer who was considered a landscape
artist, was among the first to admit that the traditional wet darkroom
played a very important role in his work transforming seemingly
dull negatives and test prints into photographs that look almost three-
dimensional and have rich tones. Today, in the digital darkroom, you can
create the same traditional darkroom effects achieved by Mr. Adams, plus
In this lesson, I’ll show you how
I used Photoshop to transform a
lackluster landscape picture taken
in Arches National Park in Utah.
Tech info: Canon EOS 1Ds
Mark II, Canon 17-40mm lens
@ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125 sec.
@ f/16. ISO 100.
Levels (Layer > New Adjustment
Layer > Levels) is a good place
to start image enhancements
(although many pros like to use
Curves). Levels gives you a tremendous
amount of creative control
over the brightness, contrast, and
color of your image. The histogram,
or “mountain range,” in the Levels
dialog box shows that this image
lacks some shadows (the flat part
where the mountain range ends on
the left side of the histogram) and some highlights (the flat part where the mountain range ends on the right).
You can make a basic Levels adjustment to enhance shadow and highlight
areas by moving the slider arrows inside the mountain range in the histogram. I usually experiment with different slider positions to
see how they affect my image.
||Here’s the result of correcting the photograph’s Levels (click to enlarge). Now
the image has more color and contrast. Cool!
But speaking of cool, I took the picture around mid-day, when the light
was cool; as a result, the image has a slightly blue cast. (I wanted to photograph
this scene in the late afternoon, but I was on the move and had
to get to another location.) So, I created late-afternoon lighting: a warmer
quality of light with deeper shades of red and yellow.
In the Hue/Saturation dialog box (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation), I boosted the Saturation and then clicked OK. How much you increase the Saturation is a matter of personal choice.
In the Color Balance dialog box (Layer > New Adjustment
Layer > Color Balance), I increased the Red and Yellow tones. Again, it’s your call as to how much you want
to modify these tones.
||You aren’t done yet! Landscape photographers, whether they
work in the wet or digital darkroom, often darken the edges
of a picture to draw more attention to the main subject in the
center of the frame—as I did earlier with the leopard photo.
That’s easy to do in Photoshop.
Using the Rectangular Marquee tool, I selected an area an
inch or so into the frame. A dotted white line showed the
selected area—the part inside the line. I then chose Select > Inverse (press Shift-Command-I: Mac or
Shift-Ctrl-I: Win) to invert the selection. Now the area outside
the dotted white line was selected.
||For a smooth transition from the darkened edges to the
main part of the image, I went to Select > Feather, and in
the Feather Selection dialog box, I chose a Feather Radius
of 200. That value worked well for my 300 ppi,
537-inch image. Your Feather Radius will depend on your
personal taste and the image resolution.
Finally, to darken the selected area, I went to Levels and
moved the Shadow triangle on the slider bar to the right. As always, how much you move it depends on your
personal taste. My goal was to make the edges
darker, but not to the point that they were distracting.
As you can see, the edges of the picture
are evenly darkened.
When you’re photographing landscapes, keep
in mind the creative enhancements that are possible
in Photoshop and how much fun you can
have transforming your images.
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Excerpted from Idea to Image in Photoshop CS2: Rick Sammon’s Guide to Enhancing Your Digital Photographs by Rick Sammon. Copyright © 2007. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.