Further experiments in Photoshop Elements

I’m off sick today with a stinking cold and having been asleep for much of the afternoon, I wanted to do something to wake me up. A Photoshop self-tutorial was the fantastic answer.

I picked up April’s edition of Digital Photo, which Dad leant me yesterday as it has some great tips for editing RAW files. Something I had never been able to get to grips with before was ‘layer masks’. I just didn’t understand their purpose.

Digital Photo had one answer (I’m sure there are many). They are perfect for pictures that are spoilt by a huge difference between highlights and shadows, a common problem shooting on bright, sunny days with trees, for example. Unfortunately, Dad had chucked out the DVD that comes with the mag, that includes the example images they use in the tutorials but I have a few images with this problem, so I followed the instructions.

The idea is to create a separate image for each section in the picture and then blend them, taking the best bits from each one. The example used in Digital Photo had three areas, mine just two.

Here is the original image – not the most inspiring photo but a good example of bright sky and gloomy foreground.

BeforeHere’s what happens if I simply try to use some fill light to bring the foreground out of the shadows – the sky and the house become far to bright and harsh. The foreground has some detail but is still pretty gloomy:

Trying to correct without using layers

So, to correct it more effectively, I had to create two images. The first sorts out the foreground but as you can see, it has a hideous effect on the house.

Sorting out the foreground

The second gets the temperature right for the house but still has the foreground in near total darkness.

Warming up the house

The key is to take both of these and blend them together – showing the foreground of the first one and the house/sky of the second.

The Digital Photo feature with fantastic instructions is on page 70.  I was a bit nervous as I really didn’t understand it but as soon as I worked on the second layer I did. It’s one of those techniques I had to see at work to understand. And the wonderful thing about digital images is, of course, that you can dump any mistakes!

Here’s the final image:

Final result

As I said, it’s not the most inspiring photo but it was a great one on which to see the difference this technique makes.

By Carole Scott


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