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16 How-To Tips for Using Photoshop Camera Raw

#30 Adjusting Custom Exposure and Tone

If you want to take your images to the next level, use the Exposure and tone sliders located in the Basic tab (Figure 30a). The sliders are simple and intuitive.

Figure 30a

Figure 30a Adjust exposure and tone as desired using these adjustment sliders.

The descriptions of each control follows:

  • Exposure. This slider adjusts the overall image brightness so that the image appears to have been exposed correctly. Drag the slider to the left to darken the image and to the right to brighten it.
  • Recovery. One of the problems frequently encountered with digital capture is overexposure. If the image is overexposed (as a result of incorrect camera settings), the Recovery slider can be used to coax details out of its highlights (the brightest part of the image).
  • Fill Light. In traditional photography, a fill light is used to open up areas of shadow. It is not the key or dominant light source but a complementary light source. In the same way, the Fill Light slider works to brighten details within shadows without brightening the deepest blacks.
  • Blacks. This slider makes a significant change in the darkest shadows with much less change in the midtones and highlights. As a result, increasing the blacks can increase the contrast in an image. When adjusting the Blacks slider, be careful not to increase its value so much that there is great loss of detail in the dark tones of the image.
  • Brightness. Similar to the Exposure slider, the Brightness slider adjusts the brightness and darkness of the image. However, this slider does not clip (or lose) the image highlights or shadows as aggressively as the Exposure slider. For this reason, it’s best to first set the overall tonal scale using the Exposure, Recovery, and Blacks sliders, and then set the brightness. Brightness adjustments also can affect shadow or highlight clipping, so after making a Brightness adjustment, verify and/or readjust the Exposure, Recovery, or Blacks settings as needed.
  • Contrast. After you have set the Exposure, Blacks, and Brightness values, you need to set the contrast. The Contrast slider mainly affects the midtones (although it affects the darktones and highlights somewhat). When you increase contrast, the middle-to-dark image areas become darker, and the middle-to-light image areas become lighter.
  • Clarity. This setting adds depth and sharpness to an image by increasing local contrast. (You can think of sharpness and contrast as birds of a feather.) When using this setting, it is best to zoom in to 100% or greater. To maximize the effect, increase the setting until you see halos near the edge details of the image, and then reduce the setting slightly.

As you begin to work more with these and the other Camera Raw controls, you’ll soon discover that it would be helpful to process multiple images simultaneously. This approach is especially useful when you have images that were taken under similar conditions.

  1. In Adobe Bridge, select multiple files and open them in Camera Raw. Thumbnails of your selected images will appear in a vertical-column—the Filmstrip pane—on the left side of the Camera Raw window (Figure 30b).

    Figure 30b

    Figure 30b When you open multiple images at one time, they appear in the Filmstrip pane.

  2. Click the Select All button to select all the images. Now when you modify any of the Camera Raw controls, the modification will be applied to all the images. Or, you can select a single image and make adjustments. Click the Select All button, and then click the Synchronize button to open the Synchronize dialog box where you can determine which adjustments will be applied (Figure 30c).

    Figure 30c

    Figure 30c Use the Synchronize dialog box to choose which adjustments you would like to synchronize.

6. #31 Enhancing Color with Vibrance and Saturation | Next Section Previous Section