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Articoli tecnici

Questo articolo non disponibile in Italiano
September 2008

In the first three parts of this journey inside Photoshop we’ve pointed out most of the main features. There’s so much to cover it’s inevitable that we’ve only skimmed the surface! In our final examination of Photoshop’s pixel-pushing powers we’ll delve deeper and put some of its most useful tools through their paces to fix typical problems like exposure and contrast.

We’ll demonstrate how Photoshop’s different tools can tackle any selection challenge, from selecting and replacing an unwanted sky to isolating an object with curved lines for example. We’ll also take a look at ways to produce striking monochromatic prints, and even show you how to create a duotone image without leaving the comfort and quality zone of the Adobe Camera RAW editor. And we can’t leave without a look at the Photoshop’s comprehensive selection of creative image editing filters for those that want to take their image editing in a more creative direction.

Seasoned photographers know that there's more to creating a black and white print than simply shooting on monochrome film. You can lighten or darken specific objects in a scene by popping coloured filters over the lens. A green filter will lighten the rolling green hills in a monochrome landscape for example. To increase the contrast between clouds and a blue sky you can shoot through a red filter. Photoshop enables photographers to mimic this traditional filter technique and create a variety of different monochrome prints from a single source file. By simulating the filter technique digitally you have much more creative freedom than you would if you shot a black and white photograph using a filter.

You can mimic traditional monochrome filters and preserve your photograph’s high quality RAW status by opening the image in the latest version of the Adobe Camera RAW editor and clicking on the HSL/Grayscale tab. When you tick the ‘Convert to Grayscale’ box Photoshop will automatically attempt to produce a high contrast monochrome version of the shot with a healthy range of shadows, mid-tones and highlights. You can then adjust the coloured sliders to lighten or darken specific objects in the mono shot.

If you don’t shoot in RAW there’s a similar slider based Black and White command in the standard editor’s Image > Adjustments menu, so you can fine-tune the tones of black and white prints with ease. Photoshop Elements users can also adjust their mono conversions using the cut down version’s equally effective ‘Convert to Black and White’ command.

© George Cairns

The shot on the left is simply a desaturated RAW file. By using the HSL/Grayscale tab’s colour sliders you can darken the blue sky and lighten the green grass for a wider tonal range.

You can also tint your RAW shots to create cyanotype and even duotone versions of your digital photos. Once you’ve ditched all colour information using the RAW editor’s HSL/Grayscale tab click on the Split Toning tab. This enables you to tint specific tones with precision. In our example we tinted the shot’s highlights green by popping the Highlights Hue slider up to 249 and boosting the Highlights Saturation to 73. We used the Shadows Hue slider to tint the shadows blue to create a moody duotone shot. The Balance slider enables you to bias the strength of the tint towards the highlights or shadows.

© George Cairns

The latest incarnation of the Adobe Camera RAW editor enables you to tint a mono shot’s shades and highlights independently to produce creative duotone effects.

One of the most common challenges we face is to capture a healthy range of shadows, mid-tones and highlights. In part 1 of this series on Photoshop CS3 we mentioned that Photoshop describes the spread and intensity of a shot’s tones by displaying them as a histogram graph. We spoke about how the Levels command enables you to use a histogram to reduce blown out highlights or darken washed out shadows. If you have a shot that has both blown out highlights and clipped shadows then Levels will struggle to be of much help, as it only has three tone control points. For more advanced tonal tweaking you need to call on the power of the Curves command.

The Curves command (Image > Adjustment > Curves) also uses a histogram to help you adjust the shot’s tones. The initial (linear) curve is a straight line that runs from the shadows (with their darkest tonal value of 0) all the way up to the highlights (with their brightest value of 255). You can place as many control points along the curve as you like to target and adjust shadows, midtones and highlights with much greater control than you’d get using Levels. This is a good example of Photoshop’s wide range of tools. You can start off using basic commands like Image > Adjustments > Auto Contrast, progress onto to tonal tinkering using Levels and advance to more sophisticated controls like Curves. Photoshop caters for the needs of the novice and, as their skills grow, it lets them develop into a professional.

© George Cairns

Curves enables you to darken clipped highlights and brighten up shadows and mid-tones by remapping a shot’s original tonal input levels to brighter or darker values.

There many reasons why you might want to select a specific area, and Photoshop provides many different selection tools to help you tackle a wide range of selection challenges. The most commonly used selection tool is the trusty Magic Wand (W). This allows you to select pixels based on colour and tone. The Wand is fine for rough and ready selections, but when faced with the challenge of selecting an unwanted sky you might find the Colour Range command will give you a more effective selection. Colour Range enables you to make a selection by clicking an eyedropper on an unwanted patch of sky. It will then find all similarly coloured pixels (even if they’re hiding in the branches of a tree.) Colour Range previews the selected pixels as white, whilst the unselected show up as black. You can use the Add to Selection eyedropper to fine-tune this preview to make the blacks black and the whites white, ensuring a clean selection.

Sometimes a selected object has a fringe of pixels clinging to its edge. If your initial selection doesn’t quite work you can modify it with ease using the new Refine Edge command. This provides you with sliders that expand or contract the selection. You can also soften the selection after you’ve made it, enabling the selected pixels to blend effectively with their new neighbours on the layer below.

© George Cairns

The Colour Range command enables you to create a selection by clicking on a colour. We used it to hunt down all of this shot’s original bland sky so we could replace it.

© George Cairns

The Refine Edges command makes selection modification a much less tedious task, enabling you to fine-tune a selection to perfection.

Another noteworthy selection tool is the Magnetic Lasso. This clever gadget automatically places selection marquee anchor points as you draw around your subject. This tool is particularly handy when you need to isolate complex shapes like people from their background. If you have to select objects with long smooth lines (like the chassis of a car or the body of an aircraft) then the Pen tool is your weapon of choice. This enables you to place anchor points around an object manually. You can click and drag the cursor as you place a point to create a curved selection line. The Pen tool also draws paths that you can store with the image; enabling you to generate a selection instantly at any time in the future. The Pen tool is not available in the Elements version of Photoshop.

© George Cairns

The Pen tool enables you to select objects with long curving lines in a few clicks. You can fine-tune Pen tool paths to create a perfect selection.

By and large we’ve kept our eyes firmly focused on Photoshop’s photo fixing abilities, but we’d be neglecting one of the package’s major features if we didn’t take a look at its wide range of filters. Filters are great for those who want to take their image editing in a more creative direction. You can go to Filter > Filter Gallery and preview a wide range of creative and artistic effects. The beauty of the Filter Gallery is that you can apply filters as layers and make multiple changes to your source file. You can re-order the way the filters are stacked to create dramatically different looking images.

© George Cairns

The Filter Gallery lets you preview a combination of multiple filters, enabling you to turn photos into paintings.

Once you apply a filter to a shot it stays filtered. At least that was the case until Adobe included Smart Filters in the latest release. Once you choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters then any filters that you apply to the image will appear in the Layers palette. You can turn them on and off, re-order them and most importantly you can double click on them to change their settings. This ability to use filters non-destructively is a huge bonus for those with a creative purpose.

You can slap filters onto photos easily but this tends to create generic looking images that have obviously been through the filtering process. By combining filters with other menu commands you can produce more sophisticated examples of pop art, like a Lichtenstein-style screen print poster complete with ink dots. To create our Comic Book style image we duplicated the photo onto a new layer and used the Image > Adjustments > Threshold command to turn the complex photo into simple monochrome shapes. We then used the Cutout filter to mimic the swathes of colour created by the screen print process. To create the comic book style ink dots ink dots we chose Filter > Sketch > Halftone Pattern and set Pattern Type to Dot. We then blended the filtered layer with the original photo by changing the top layer’s blending mode to Overlay and reducing its Opacity setting.

© George Cairns

A combination of menu commands, layer blends and multiple filters can take your image editing in even more creative directions.

As our tour of Photoshop CS3’s key features draws to an end we still haven’t exhausted all that the package has to offer (like the Horizontal Type tool for example!). It’s a bit like writing a four-part guide called ‘Inside London’ – we’ll cover many of the main landmarks but there’ll still be some fantastic locations that we’ve missed. I’ve used Photoshop since version one (when it didn’t even have the ability to edit in layers!) but I can still discover new features when I watch a newcomer using the software. The package is so vast and powerful that there are many ways to perform the same tasks.

The great thing about Photoshop is the fact that you can get up and running quite quickly by using the automated image adjustment tools. As your experience grows you’ll be able to tinker with more of the advanced menu commands and find new and effective ways to tackle your image editing challenges.

At the start of our look inside Photoshop we mentioned that the package comes in two flavours – Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop Elements. There’s also an extended version of CS3 called Photoshop CS3 Extended, which enables video makers to import frames from video into Photoshop and edit them like stills (before turning them back into movies again). There is also the latest version of Photoshop Lightroom 2 to consider, as this is a clever combination of Element’s organizational powers and CS3’s RAW editing abilities.

Whatever flavour of Photoshop you prefer you can relax safe in the knowledge that the package will continue to grow and develop to meet your image editing requirements for years to come.