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The Big Fixx: digital camera image probl... > Fixing Photos Where You Wish You Had...

Fixing Photos Where You Wish You Hadn’t Used the Flash

There’s a natural tendency for some photographers to react to their immediate surroundings, rather than what they see through the lens. For example, at an indoor concert, there are often hundreds of lights illuminating the stage. However, some photographers think it’s one light short—their flash—because where they’re sitting, it’s dark. When they look at their photos later, they see that the flash lit everyone in front of them (which wasn’t the way it really looked—the crowd is usually in the dark), ruining an otherwise great shot. Here’s a quick fix to make it look as if the flash never fired at all.

Step One

Open a photo where shooting with the flash has ruined part of the image.

Step Two

Press the letter L to get the Lasso tool, and draw a loose selection around the area where the flash affected the shot.

Step Three

In the next step, we’re going to adjust the tonal range of this selected area, but we don’t want that adjustment to appear obvious. We’ll need to soften the edges of our selection quite a bit so our adjustment blends in smoothly with the rest of the photo. To do this, go under the Select menu and choose Feather. When the Feather Selection dialog appears, enter 25 pixels to soften the selection edge. (By the way, 25 pixels is just my guess for how much the selection might need. The rule of thumb is the higher the resolution of the image, the more feathering you’ll need, so don’t be afraid to use more than 25 if your edge is visible when you finish.) Click OK.

Step Four

It will help you make a better adjustment if you hide the selection border (I call it “the marching ants”) from view. We don’t want to deselect—we want our selection to remain intact—but we don’t want to see the annoying border, so press Control-H to hide the selection border. Now, press Control-L to bring up the Levels dialog. At the bottom of the dialog, drag the right Output Levels slider to the left to darken your selected area. Because you’ve hidden the selection border, it should be very easy to match the selected area to its surroundings when you drag this slider to the left.

Step Five

When the photo looks about right, click OK to apply your Levels adjustment. Then, press Control-H to make your selection visible again (this trips up a lot of people who, since they don’t see the selection anymore, forget it’s there, and then nothing reacts as it should from that point on).

Step Six

Press Control-D to deselect and view your repaired “flash-free” photo.



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