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Trapped - simple enhancements for digital camera pics

Trapped - simple enhancements for digital camera pics - Photographs taken with a digital camera very often only need a series of small changes to significantly improve them. Using Photoshop 6 let's show you what we mean with the image below.

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Adobe Photoshop

Words and Pictures Barry Beckam & David Rowley

Click here to download the full resolution image before you begin (430KB)

1 Open the full resolution image and you will notice it requires a slight crop to get rid of the bar on the right and the white areas along the top. Click on your crop tool and make a crop just as we have shown below.

2 The next step is to do something about the green trees in the background. While it's a natural colour we think it will look far better if it was more in harmony with the bear. It just so happens that we have a cunning way to do this so that the change looks natural along the bear's fur. Open the layers palette from the menu at the top of your screen or via the F7 shortcut key and create an adjustment layer by clicking the icon at the base of the palette.

3Choose hue and saturation as your adjustment layer and Photoshop will create the layer for you as we show below.

At the same time Photoshop will present you with the hue and saturation palette, shown below, for you to make your adjustments.

4Click the colorize box and dial in the settings shown to change the green to a sepia brown. Don't forget to tick the colorize box.

5You will now notice that the whole bear has taken on the sepia colour, but that is where the neat part of the adjustment layer comes in. Pick up a large soft edged brush and black as your foreground colour and set the pressure setting to 100% for now.

Spray into the image and the bear will be restored to its original colour. Where you need to spray along the edge of the fur, reduce the pressure to 10-20% and with a little care you will no trace of your work. If you make a mistake while using the adjustment layer simply switch to a white airbrush and undo the mistake.You will find adjustment layers very similar to layer masks,

Tip: If the sepia tone doesn't look quite right at this stage you can click back into the adjustment layer thumbnail and adjust the hue and saturation again. If you want to see the mask or the effect of your black spray hold down the Alt key and click into the thumbnail to the right of the adjustment layer. To return to your image click on the little eye icon.

6Already the image above is miles better than when you started, but there is still more to come. At this stage you should save your work as a layered file (PSD) and flatten the two layers together using the command in the layers menu.

7 The next stage requires you to adjust the levels within the image, but you will need to do this differently for different bits of the image. One way to do this is to use your layers and make a copy of the background thumbnail.
With the bottom background layer selected and the upper background copy turned off call up your levels palette via Ctrl+L. Adjust the sliders of the bottom copy as shown below to darken and get some depth and impact to the light areas of the fur. For now ignore the fact that some areas of the image are going too dark as ours did below. We can deal with that next.

8Select the upper copy in your layers stack and call up the levels again. We can now make a similar adjustment, but this time just concentrate on getting the dark areas right and ignore the highlights that appear too bright like the image below.

9 All we need to do now is to blend the two together, taking the best of both and for that you will need to add a layer mask to the top layer.Gently spray black into the mask with the pressure setting around 20 and mask away the light areas of your image until you have the best of both layers.

The image now has much more impact, but there is still some light areas at the top right of the picture and the eyes are too dark. You need to lighten and lift the eyes so that they grab the viewers attention.

10 Save your image in its layered form and flatten the two layers and the mask together. Repeat step 7 again, but this time on the bottom image just concentrate on the bears eyes and nothing else. Adjust the levels until you have some light and contrast in the eyes and try using the dodge tool from the tool bar. Add the layer mask to the top layer and mask out the dark eyes revealing those from beneath as we show below.

This is a great technique using two layers and layer masks to get the best of high lights and shadows from a picture and it can be applied to many different images.

11 For those light areas at the top of the image make a selection using the polygon and/or the lasso tool and feather the edge of the selection by 10 pixels. Ctrl+Alt+D will bring up the feather command. Use those levels again to darken the lightest areas as much as you can and then switch to your clone tool to cover up the lightest fur that the levels has little effect on.

You can see from your results so far shown above that you are almost there.

12 You can now have a look at the unsharp mask, which you will find in the filters menu. Adjust the sliders as shown below and just lift the sharpness a little.

13You may also want to look at adjusting the saturation just a little too and deal with any tiny spots of blemishes with your clone tool.

14Finally add a little shading to the right of the image to just balance the picture. You will be able to manage this with a large soft edged black airbrush set at 3% pressure.

None of those steps were difficult, but if you compare your end result shown below with the original you will see how far we have come. We had this image printed 20x16in by Loxley Colour labs of Glasgow and, even if we say so ourselves, it looks rather good.

Try these types of techniques on your own images and bring out the quality that is lurking within the picture.

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