Basic Photo Editing

on Feb 11, 2009 in Photography 101 | 15 comments

After reviewing the images from Day 1 last week, I ventured out for another session to improve on the setup and composition. The picture above was my final pick for an April ad featuring the Carousel Quilt Kit.

I have learned just enough Photoshop to get my work done. I learn something new everyday. Today I wanted to share the basic editing I performed to get from the Before photo to the After.

I captured these screen shots after I did all the editing so please disregard that the layers are already showing in the Layers palette on the screen. I use Adobe Photoshop CS2. Click on the photos below to see an enlarged image showing the detail more clearly.

1. Although I’ve shot in RAW in the past, for this session I set the camera to the highest quality level for JPEG images. I shot the photos very early in the morning.

2. The first edit I do on any picture is Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Levels. Bring the left arrow (solid) just under the left-hand side of the ‘mountain’ and bring the right arrow (hollow) just under the right-hand side of the ‘mountain’. This does a very good job of correcting the overall exposure. This is often times the only adjustment I’ll make to an image before posting on my blog. I have no idea what the middle arrow does!

3. I use the Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Hue/Saturation to add a little color punch to my photos. A +10 in the Saturation field does a nice shop of making the colors pop.

4. The Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask is a miracle editing tool. It sharpens the edges of the elements in the photo making it crisp for printing and computer screen display. Now, why the sharpening function is called ‘Unsharp Mask’ I have no idea! I think that’s why I avoided it for so long. I’ve played with the other sharpen filters on that menu and haven’t figured them out yet!

5. One final edit I did on this photo is something I only do when making an image ready for an important job like an advertisement or a pattern cover. I did some surgical exposure adjustment on the background because it was too dark overall (see the original photo). The exposure adjustment I did in step 2 did a great job of getting the right exposure on the quilt but not enough for the background. The first step is selecting the background.

I used the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the quilt (I did a corner to corner lasso, gotta love square objects!). The background is selected by Select->Inverse. Now everything in the photo is selected except for the quilt.

Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Curves will create a new layer that only includes the background. The Layers Palette gives you a little clue by showing the area that isn’t selected as black.

The final step is to do some more in depth exposure adjustment using Curves. I really don’t know what I’m doing here. I just play with it until I get the result I want. Whenever I’m not happy I hit ‘Cancel’ on the Curves dialog box and start over. I included this screen shot so you can see how I moved the diagonal line just a bit upward on the left hand side. That lightened up the background so it matched the exposure of the quilt.

I did a little artistic cropping and that was it! I’m happy with the final result.

2/12/08: Kelli asked what type of camera I have. I use a Canon 40D. When I switched to digital about 4 years ago I started with a Canon Rebel. I love the features on the 40D but I have to say I’m not sure my pictures are any better than what I used to take with the Rebel. I have a large collection of lenses that began when I purchased my first Canon camera in 1990. This photo was taken with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens. I would always spend more on the lens than the camera body.

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