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Photoshop Tips: The Digital Darkroom Target WorkflowOptimizing your image correction process
The first three steps in creating the best image are done before you ever get into Photoshop. The first step, and the most difficult, is capturing the image that expresses what you are trying to communicate. From there, examining the original (the second step), will help you to select the image with the best exposure and tonal range. As a general rule, if the detail isn't there in the original, it's very difficult to make it up! The third step is getting a good scan. Even if the original is great, if the scan doesn't capture the information, then you'll have to get it from somewhere else or, create it yourself. In other words, garbage in, garbage out!
Open the image
Once you have the scan, select File > Open and navigate to the image. If the image's perspective needs to be corrected, select View > Show Rulers and drag out any guides that might be helpful in straightening the image. If you prefer to use the grid, select View > Show Grid. Note: to change the layout of the grid lines, select File > Preferences > Guides and Grid.
Straighten the image
Choose Select > All to select the entire image. Then, select Edit > Transform > Distort. Using the transformation handles, drag the corners inwards (to interpolate down, not up)until the image is straight.
Crop the image
From the tool palette, select the crop tool. Drag the crop marquee around the area that you want to crop. Note: if you don't make the crop area correct on the first drag, use the handles to redefine the crop area. With the area defined, either double click inside of the crop area or hit the enter or return key to apply the crop.
Resize the image
To make sure that you are working with a file that is just the right size, select Image > Image Size. Uncheck the Resample Image button and enter the dimensions that you desire in the Print Size area. If you don't have enough total pixels in the image to print at the desired size, re-scan the image. If you have more than enough total pixels, uncheck the Resample Image button and enter the correct dimensions.
Set the black and white point
Select Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. In the New Adjustment Layer dialog box, for Type, select Levels and click OK. In the layers dialog box, slide the highlight and shadow triangles in the input area under the first pixel data in the histogram. If there is an area in the image that is neutral gray, use the gray balance eyedropper (the one in the middle)and click in the neutral area in the image. Click OK.
Adjust the midtones
Select Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. In the New Adjustment Layer dialog box, for Type, select Curves and click OK. In the curves dialog box, set points on the curve and raise and lower the points to adjust the quarter tones, midtones and three quarter tones of the image. You can place up to 16 points on this curve Note: to make more grid lines appear in the curve dialog box, option click in the grid area.
Adjust the color
If there are color casts in the image, select Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. In the New Adjustment Layer dialog box, for Type, select color balance and click OK. In the Color Balance dialog box, drag the sliders to adjust the colors subjectively. Note: you can also use the color samplers to sample up to 4 areas in the image and adjust the color numerically by looking at he info palette readout.
Make local tonal and color corrections
To make local tonal and color corrections, select the area that you want to effect. Then, select Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. In the New Adjustment Layer dialog box, for Type, select the adjustment that you want to make. (We made a selection of the window and used the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer to change the color. )Note: adding the adjustment layer automatically turned the selection into a mask.
Remove imperfections in the image
Select Layer > New Layer. In the New Layer dialog box, name the layer stamp and click OK. On the tool palette, double click the Rubber Stamp. In the Rubber Stamp Options palette, check the Use All Layers button. Holding down the option key, click in the area to sample from. Then, release the option key and paint over the imperfections in the image. If needed, use the move tool to reposition the new layer.
Save the layered file
Select File > Save a Copy. Rename the file and click save. Since this is layered file, the only format that is available is the native Photoshop format (.psd).
Flatten the image
Before applying sharpening to the entire image, select Layer > Flatten Image. This merges all of the layers into one.
Select View > Actual Pixels to view the image at 100%. Select Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Increase the amount until you add enough contrast for the image to appear sharp. Drag the Radius slider to the right to increase the width of the sharpening. Note: a good rule of thumb for the radius amount isfor every 150 PPI you use for output, set the radius to one. Drag the threshold slider to the right to leave low contrast areas alone.
Save a copy of the file
Select File > Save a Copy and rename the image so as not to save over the layered file.
Julieanne Kost is graphic arts evangelist for Adobe Systems Inc. For more information on Adobe, please visit http://www.adobe.com.
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