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Old Mar 2, 2004, 3:20 PM   #21
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Default re : the magic of layers to bring 'oohmph' in a photo

Hi everyone, been learning a lot from various people on this forum about taking pictures, how to expose, use proper AF, how to post process. Being also a self-learner by nature, I have a method which takes some times when you're in PS Elements, but results are interesting.

First hand, I shoot exclusively in RAW, I have 2 main reason for doing so, the first one ; to correct WB from the camera. Especially with winter scene where the snow background if underexposed at some area will create bluish shaddows. The camera can't do everything. So with Capture 1 Rebel, or LE or CE, you can instantly correct WB by just bringing the mouse over a known shaddow area and the snow shaddows will instantly become the proper gray one, not bluish. This is a much faster and efficient method than trying this in PS Element with a JPG image.

Second reason : If some part of the image are not properly exposed, I'm talking about underexposed area, either the main subject or the background, or the foreground. With Capture 1 software, you can save TIFF images at different exposition, then using layers in PS, you can erase the bad areas in one layer, keep another area with another layer and so on. I use this method often and leads to superb results.

Now about the workflow, starting with Capture 1 :

I'll inspect the image and look if the image is properly exposed, proper focus for the subject and so on, then I'll decide what strategy I'll apply.

In order, I will :

Look at the histogram, click on CAPTURE tab, look at exposure evaluation, how wide is the entire graph ? If you have space on the left and/or right portion of the graph, here you click on EXPOSURE tab, and use the CC (contrast correction) slider, increase contrast here and look at your graph. It will expand on each side. I generally play between 5 to 15 CC here.

- If the image is generally under-exposed, you'll need to increase EC (exposure compensation) until you have satisfactory results. It's also here where you may want to create layers of TIFF for further layer works in PS Elements by saving different EC images. Don't do this yet.

- Now click on the WHITE BALANCE tab. Choose the color picker tool on top, then bring the mouse over a known area where there's shaddows, for example a snowy background with different shades. Most of the time the snow shaddows will be bluish. With the color picker click on that area, look at the result. If you're not happy, in the White Balance section, click on the red X where it says reset White Balance to original. You can also try first the Auto White Balance feature CTRL-W. Personally I prefer the color picker tool.

- If your image has no known white in it, this is more difficult, but you can also try the color slider tool in WHITE BALANCE and also play with Tone Balance. You play with these setting until you have satisfactory results.

- After you've adjusted the WB with C1 software, look again at the histogram, further play with EC if you need so.

- Now click on the FOCUS tab, and look at your main subject, there's 2 slider here with 2 method of sharpening :

Soft Look and Standard Look

- I use Soft look with a good amount of threshold here to create a saved TIFF image when I had to shoot at ISO400 or 800. This TIFF will be used as a layer in PS for the background.

- For the main subject, use the Standard sharpening method, and play with the Amount slider to sharpen the main subject to your taste. I generally don't push much here, usually between 20 and 50% max.

- Now click on the Develop tab, I will choose TIFF format in 16 Bit, then with the CROP tool icon on top of the screen, I will crop the image for prints , click on the VIEW tab on top, and choose TOOLS SETTING, then choose the crop format you want, for example 10 x 8 in. Crop the image to your taste (for your best composition), then from the right menu under DEVELOP, adjust your Resolution in DPI so you get exactly 10x8 in. This will provide you with an image saved at certain DPI level, but will be 10x8 in ready for prints.

- Under the Batch Editor in DEVELOP, click on the + sign and then click on the icon where it says Develop the Batch. It's also here where I may often choose different EC for multiple layers, then click on Develop the Batch for these different EC images.

I got few calls to do (work) I'll be back later to explain tricks I use in PS Elements.

(part 2 on its way)
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Old Mar 2, 2004, 3:34 PM   #22
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PART 2 :

Now I have saved maybe one or many images of the same "frame", I refer to frame, which are the same exact crop from Capture 1 software. If I want to maximise the exposure of the same photo for let's say a sky, background and foreground, I would use 2-3 or more layers in TIFF with different EC from Capture 1.

Examples here, this simple scene :

non layered image, where the sky is properly exposed, but the rest is under-exposed :

Another image - these were actually taken at different exposure on sight. This method is valuable and better than compensating in Capture 1, when you have the 'luxury' to do it. For casual birding, wildlife or any moving subject, you understand that you'll need to do it with EC in C1.

properly exposed foreground, overexposed sky, underexposed background :

Then you could again do the same for a properly exposed background, and discard the rest...

To finally come with combined layers of all different TIFF :

SIDE NOTE : The very same principle can be applied if you do Exposure Compensation in C1 or PS and then do the layer trick.

Is this how the eye perceives a scenery like this ? Yes, and actually even better. To my opinion, even with the best metering method with the best camera, it's impossible to achieve an image like above without using layers.

2 more examples :

I guess you can see easily what have been done here.

To achieve this, I use the eraser tool, and on each layer with different exposure, I'll erase each part of the image where exposure is incorrect. This is a long process though, I would say its "extreme".

At this point, I'll use COMBINE LAYERS.

Another aspect where you may want to make adjustments of TIFF is using the blur tool, or use the Lasso tool, draw the area you need to adjust an area then use Gaussian Blur to smooth out lets say a background Out of Focus that exhibits even moderate noise (ISO400, ISO800). Personally I don't want to create false blurry area, I'm just smoothing out area that were meant to be smooth, but due to noise : it shows. I've notice this kind of problem is less apparent on a resize image for the web display, but on a 10 x 8 print with glossy papers, this will show instantly.

SIDE NOTE 2 : Using your imagination, let's say the exposition was nailed to start with, the subject is nicely in focus, its sharp to your taste... What else can you do ? Is the background to noisy ? Then create a 2nd TIFF from C1 and apply enough of softness, so that layer will be used for a soft blurred background.

Again same principle, using the eraser or mask. Create a first background TIFF image being smooth, soft, then add a 2nd layer that has that crisp subject. On the 2nd layer, erase (or mask) everything but the subject. Then you'll have 2 layers : one with a smooth background, and a crisp subject, combine both layer

Example of that principle here :


For prints, I normally never apply any sharpening method to the main subject.

For web work, at this point, resize the image to what you prefer :

Then its at this point where I'll use USM (Unsharp Mask). Thanks to Paul (Plebeic), I use his method. With PS Element, create a duplicate layer (named in PS : Background Copy), then apply USM like this :

Amount : 400-500%
Radius : .2 to .4
Threshold : 0

Create a duplicate layer of the duplicate USM layer (named Background Copy 2). Then go in the layer section (top right of PS Element), highlight Background Copy, choose Darken, then slide from 100% to any lower value until you have satisfactory results. I suggest to use the 'eye' button where you can remove temporary a layer to see the result between the original image and either 2 Background Copy. For Background Copy 2, this time use Lighten, and with the slider, go lower until you have a satisfactory result. Compare between each Background copy and the original, try all 3 together and when you're happy with the result, combine all layers.

It is possible at this point that some artifact (noise spots) will show again in background of the image, you can again use the Blur tool to remove any of these.
Then blur noise spot still apparent in the background of the image, after I've combined all layers.

That's all friends

Some notes : From the original post I've written : About Capture 1 software (C1), it takes me less than 3-4 min max to create all what is needed (including many layers) for TIFF export. C1 alone and its ease of work saves me easily 45 min to 1 hour of post processing, if it was done in PS from a JPG.

In PS Elements, depending if I need to create layers of different exposure, the process can be quite long, also the more noise there is to remove, the more work you might have to do.

To conclude, I'm not an expert whatsoever in PS or C1, this is my simple method where it provides me satisfactory results.

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Old Mar 2, 2004, 6:31 PM   #23
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Eric, you did a wonderful job of explaining the process of using two versions of the same photo to correct for exposure problems. This is worthy of the "Sticky" designation.
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Old Mar 4, 2004, 8:25 AM   #24
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Eric, marvelous notes. I must try this out.

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Old Mar 4, 2004, 6:15 PM   #25
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Thank you Barbara and Graham, hope it can help a bit. English is not my first language, sometimes the structure of phrase can be 'fuzzy' :roll:

Cheers !
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