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Lesson 4. Fixing Exposure Problems > Project 2: Improving faded or overexposed ...

Project 2: Improving faded or overexposed images

In this project, you’ll work with the scan of an old photograph (circa 1920s) that has faded badly and is in danger of being lost forever. Although it’s not necessarily an award-winning shot, it could represent an era of personal history that you might want to preserve for future generations.

The automatic fixes you applied earlier in this lesson to a copy of this image improve the photograph quite a bit. In this project, you’ll try to do even better using other techniques.

Creating a set of duplicate files

You’re going to compare a variety of techniques during the course of this project. You’ll start by creating individual files for each technique and giving them unique names. These names will help you identify the technique used to adjust each file.

1.
Choose File > Browse Folders to reopen the File Browser. Using the same process that you used in the previous project, find, select, and open the 04_02.jpg file, which is in the Lesson04 folder. Then minimize or close the File Browser.

2.
Choose File > Duplicate, and type Shad_High in the dialog box that appears to name the file, and click OK.

3.
Repeat Step 2 two more times, naming one of the duplicate files Bright_Con and the other one Levels.

4.
In the Photo Bin, select the 04_02.jpg thumbnail to make that image active.

5.
Choose File > Save As. When a dialog box appears, type Blend_Mode as the new file name and select Photoshop (PSD) in the Format pop-up menu. Select the Lessons\My CIB Work folder as the Save In location. If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save. Click OK in any dialog boxes or messages that appear to accept the defaults.

6.
Leave all four images open for the rest of the project.

Using blending modes to fix a faded image

This technique is similar to the one you used earlier to correct an underexposed image. In this case, you’ll use other blending modes to fix this exposure problem.

1.
In the Photo Bin, make sure that Blend_Mode.jpg is highlighted, or click that thumbnail to make it active.

2.
Duplicate the Background layer (choose Layer > Duplicate Layer, or use one of the other techniques described in the previous project). Click OK in the dialog box that appears, to accept the default name, Background Copy.

Leave the Background Copy layer selected for the next step.

3.
In the Layers palette, do both of the following:

  • Choose Multiply on the blending modes pop-up menu.

  • Drag the Background Copy layer to the New Layer icon () to create another duplicate, Background Copy 2.

4.
In the Layers palette, select the following options for the Background Copy 2 layer:

  • Change the blending mode from Multiply to Overlay.

  • Set the Opacity at about 50%, either by typing or by dragging the Opacity slider.

The Overlay blending mode cheers up the image considerably, but the image contrast is still unimpressive.

5.
Select the Background Copy layer (not Background Copy 2), and choose Layer > Duplicate Layer. Click OK in the dialog box to accept the default name, Background Copy 3.

The new duplicate layer also has Multiply blending mode, which adds the extra bit of muscle this picture needs.

6.
(Optional) Fine-tune the results by adjusting the Opacity settings for the individual layers until the image achieves a balance. (This is a judgment call, so you’ll have to decide on your own what settings produce the best results.)

Note

You cannot change the Opacity of the locked Background layer.

7.
Choose File > Save As, and save the file in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder. If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save. Leave the file open.

Blending modes make layers interact with the layers under them in various ways. Multiply intensifies the dark pixels in an image. Overlay tends to brighten an image. For this project, using Overlay adds clarity and brilliance without cancelling out the effect of the Multiply blending mode on the underlying layers.

The stacking order of the layers makes a difference, so if you dragged one of the Multiply blending-mode layers to the top of the layer stack, you’d see slightly different results.

Adjusting shadows and highlights manually

Although both auto-fixing and blending modes do pretty good jobs of correcting the fading in this image, some of your own photos may be more challenging. You’ll try three new techniques in the next three procedures.

The first technique involves using sliders for Shadows, Highlights, and Midtone Contrast.

1.
In the Photo Bin, select the Shad_High thumbnail.

2.
Choose Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights.

3.
Select the Preview option in the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, if it is not already selected. If necessary, drag the dialog box aside so that you can also see most of the Shad_High image window.

By default, the Lighten Shadows setting is 50%, so you’ll see a difference in the image already.

4.
In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, do all of the following:

  • Drag the Lighten Shadows slider to the left to 30%, or type 30%.

  • Drag the slider or type to set Darken Highlights at 15%.

  • Drag the slider or type to set the Midtone Contrast at about +30%.

5.
Readjust the three settings as needed until you think the image is as good as it can be. Then click OK to close the dialog box.

6.
Choose File > Save As, and save the file in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder. If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save. Then leave the file open.

The sliders you used in this technique are also available in the Lighting palette in Quick Fix mode. One of the differences between the two sets of sliders is that the dialog box version also displays numbers for the slider settings.

Adjusting brightness and contrast manually

The next approach for exposure problems uses another dialog box that you open from the Enhance > Adjust Lighting menu.

1.
In the Photo Bin, select the Bright_Con thumbnail.

2.
Choose Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Brightness/Contrast.

If necessary, drag the dialog box aside so that you can also see most of the Bright_Con image window.

3.
In the Brightness/Contrast dialog box, do all of the following:

  • Select Preview, if it is not already selected.

  • Drag the Brightness slider to -30, or type -30 in the box, being careful to include the minus sign when you type.

  • Drag or type to set the Contrast at +55.

4.
Adjust the Brightness and Contrast settings as needed until you think the image is as good as it can be. Then click OK to close the dialog box.

5.
Choose File > Save As, and select the Lessons\My CIB Work folder as the location. If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save. Click OK when the JPEG Options dialog box appears. Leave the file open.

Adjusting levels manually

Levels are the range of color values—the degree of darkness or lightness, regardless of whether the color in question is red, yellow, purple, or another color. In this procedure, you’ll try to enhance the photograph by shifting the reference points for levels.

1.
In the Photo Bin, select the Levels thumbnail.

2.
Choose Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels.

3.
Select the Preview option in the Levels dialog box, if it is not already selected.

If necessary, drag the dialog box aside so that you can also see most of the image window for this file.

4.
In the Levels dialog box, do all of the following:

  • Drag the black arrow that is beneath the left side of the graph to the right and position it under the first steep spike in the graph shape. At that position, the value in the first Input Levels box is approximately 143.

  • Drag the white arrow on the right side of the graph until it reaches the edge of the final spike in the graph shape. The value of the third Input Levels box changes to approximately 225.

  • Drag the gray center arrow under the graph towards the right until the middle Input Level value is approximately 0.90.

5.
Adjust the arrow controls for the Levels graph as needed until you think the image is as good as it can be. Then click OK to close the dialog box.

6.
Choose File > Save As, and save it with the others in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder. (If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save.) Leave the file open after you click OK in the JPEG Options dialog box.

The graph represents the distribution of pixel values in the image. There are no truly white pixels or truly black ones. By dragging the sliders inward to where the pixels start to appear in the graph, you redefine what levels are calculated as dark and light. This enhances the contrast between the lightest pixels in the image and the darkest ones.

Comparing results for the various techniques

You can now compare the five versions of the image: these four and the one that you auto-fixed with the other project files at the beginning of this lesson. (If you have not already done that procedure, see “Getting started” on page 138.)

1.
Using the File Browser, find and open the Autofix_04_02.jpg file in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder. Then close the File Browser.

2.
In the Photo Bin, make sure that only the five files for this project are open: Autofix_04_02, Blend_Mode, Shad_High, Bright_Con, and Levels. Close any other open files.

3.
Click Automatically Tile Windows () on the right side of the menu bar. Or, choose Window > Images > Tile.

Note

If you do not see the icon for tiling windows, make sure that you are in Standard Edit mode, not Quick Fix.

4.
Do one of the following to reduce the zoom level for all active windows:

  • Use the Navigator palette slider, Zoom tool, or View menu commands to change the zoom of the active image window. Leave the same image window active, and choose Window > Match Zoom and Window > Match Location to change all open images to the same zoom percentage and area of the image.

  • Select the Zoom tool (). In the tool options bar, select Zoom Out ()and Zoom All Windows. Then click in the image window.

5.
Compare the files, and decide which technique did the best job for you.

6.
Click Automatically Tile Windows () again to deselect it. (You won’t see any difference in the arrangement of image windows, but it will stop the automatic rearrangement when you open or close other images.)

7.
Choose File > Close All.

Because your judgment and preferences are unique, your favorite of the five techniques you’ve tried in the project are bound to be unique, too. At a certain point, what creates the best-looking image is not just a question of skill, but also involves personal taste and your goals for using the image.

Congratulations—you’ve successfully completed another project. In doing so, you’ve used various automatic and manual approaches to correct overexposed photographs and scans of faded prints. You’ve tried auto fixes, blending modes, and the three dialog boxes that are available on the Enhance > Adjust Lighting submenu. You know that you can apply these different adjustments either separately or in combinations.

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