You Can Master RAW (Part 3)

1/16/2013 6:33:33 PM

Find out exactly what each slider in the Detail Panel does, and when to use them

Sharpening your RAW files

Sharpening is an essential step in the image-editing process, particularly when working with RAW files, which are usually softer than Jpegs – due to Jpegs being sharpened in-camera. There are two types of sharpening: Capture and Output. In ACR, we apply initial Capture sharpening to fix an inherent softness in most digital images. Output sharpening is usually done at the end, before making a print or presenting on screen, so it’s best carried out in Photoshop.

Sharpening your Raw files

Sharpening your RAW files

Sharpening works by increasing contrast around edges where lighter tones meet darker tones. At the edge, the light tones will be lightened, and the shadow tones will be darkened. To the eye, this makes the edge crisper. But push it too far and you begin to see edge halos.

Most images will benefit from a certain amount of sharpening. But how much?

In general, images with fine detail such as landscapes require less sharpening than images with soft detail, such as portraits. So for portraits, a typical setting would be Amount 35, Radius 1.2, Detail 20, Masking 70. For landscapes, try Amount 40, Radius 0.8, Detail 50, Masking 0. Of course, these settings are just a starting point. The level of sharpening required will depend on your subject matter and the camera resolution.

·         Amount

Controls the strength of the sharpening effect. View the image at 100% when judging the amount. Double-click the Zoom tool to jump to 100%.

·         Radius

Determines the number of pixels around the edge in which the sharpening effect is applied. A large radius increase the chance of unwanted halos.

·         Detail

Low Detail settings restrict sharpening to the more obvious edges. High settings will enhance finer details and texture.

·         Masking

Allows you to restrict sharpening in less detailed areas of the image. Hold down Alt while dragging the slider to see the masked areas in black.

Fixing noise

If you’re shooting at ISO 100 then noise isn’t a problem for modern digital sensors, but if you have to push ISO to 400 or higher, or use a long exposure, then it’s likely you’ll begin to see more and more noise in your images. The forest scene here was shot at ISO 3200, so the noise is very visible, particularly in the shadow areas.

A bit of noise isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it can add atmosphere to landscapes or create a gritty documentary-style effect. But large levels of noise can spoil a shot.

Fixing noise

Fixing noise

Fortunately, ACR has a range of excellent sliders that combat noise. The main tools for noise reduction in ACR are the Luminance and Color sliders. Luminance reduces grain and blotchy dots, while Color reduces unsightly spots of random colour. The trade-off to noise reduction can be slight blurring and loss of detail, so you’ll need to decide whether to accept the noise, or attempt to correct it.

Sharpening and noise reduction are two sides of the same coin, so if you sharpen a noisy image it’s likely that you’ll increase the visibility of the noise. You’ll need to strike the right balance between sharpening and noise reduction by experimenting with different sharpening amount and luminance settings. Toggle the Preview box on and off to judge the results.

·         Luminance

The primary slider for noise reduction. Use this to reduce the effects of monochromatic noise, most often seen in shadows and areas of even tone.

·         Luminance Detail

Higher luminance detail values can help to preserve details, but may increase noise. Lower values will give cleaner results but decrease image detail and texture.

·         Luminance Contrast

A higher setting will increase contrast but can give blotchy results. Lower values will smooth details.

·         Color

Targets and removes specks of colour noise. You can be more aggressive with Color than Luminance, as it doesn’t affect details in the same way.

·         Color Detail

Higher values preserve colour in edge detail but can lead to unnatural colour spots. Lower settings help to remove spots but can results in bleeding colours.

Selective control

Learn how to make selective adjustments to your RAW files with three essential tools in ACR

Since the days of dodging and burning in the darkroom, making selective adjustments to different areas of your image has always been an essential skill for photographers. Before Photoshop CS4, adjustments made in ACR were limited in that you could only apply them to the entire image. But with the introduction of the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush, ACR suddenly became a whole lot more useful.

In ACR version 7 (which comes as standard with CS6) the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter tools have been improved with extra options to adjust white balance, making it easy to selectively correct white balance and warm or cool an image.

The tools have been used here to cool down the sky and add warmth to the land, and to tease out details in the foreground. We’ve also used the Targeted Adjustment tool to boost the saturation of the orange colours in the sky.

“The tools have been used here to cool down the sky and add warmth to the land”

Graduated filter

Graduated filter

The Graduated Filter lets you plots a gradient over an area then change the tones. As well as altering exposure, you can also make useful tweaks to things like white balance, sharpness and colour saturation. What’s more, you can set more than one gradient, which makes it easy to change different areas or create a retro film-style border as we’ve done here.

Graduated Filter tips

Hold Shift while dragging a gradient to keep it perfectly horizontal, vertical or at a 45 degree angle. Click on a gradient to alter any of the adjustment settings, or hit Delete to remove it.

The tool remembers the last-used settings, which isn’t always helpful. Double-click any slder to quickly reset it.

Hit V to toggle the gradient overlay guidelines on or off.

White balance

White balance

ACR is the best place to correct white balance for realistic-looking colours. But as well as adjusting white balance over the whole image, the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush also give you selective control. Not only is this useful for cooling tones in a sky or warning tones in land – as we’ve done here, it’s also great if you have scene with different light sources, such as a portrait captured with a mix of daylight and tungsten lighting.

·         White Balance controls Temperature: 

Drag left to cool tones and right to warm them.

·         Tint:

Allows you to fine-tune white balance to compensate for a green or magenta tint.

White & Tint

White & Tint

·         White Balance tool:

Click on a tone that you know to be white or neutral grey. ACR will then detect the correct temperature.

Adjustment brush

Adjustment brush

The Adjustment Brush is perhaps the most powerful tool in ACR. Use it to selectively alter areas of an image. It behaves in much the same way as the Graduated Filter (note that the tonal settings for each are identical). Except rather than plot a gradient, you paint a mask. Each mask is represented by a pin. These pins and their masks can be added to, altered, or deleted.

Adjustment Brush tips

Check ‘New’ to start painting a fresh mask, ‘Add’ to continue painting a mask, and ‘Erase’ to remove parts of it.

Hit Y to toggle the visibility of the currently selected mask overlay. Check Auto Mask for automated assistance when painting a mask. The tool will snap onto edges, lines and shapes.

Use the number keys to quickly set a density for your brush: Hit 1 for 10%, 2 for 20% and so on.

Targeted adjustments

Targeted adjustments

ACR’s sliders aren’t the only method for adjusting tones. If you prefer interactive control, there is an alternative. The Targeted Adjustment tool lets you click and drag within the image to target and alter specific colour or tonal ranges. Dragging left or down decreases values, right or up increases them. Grab the tool from the Toolbar then right-click for five sets of parameters:

·         Parametric Curve

Drag to lighten or darken Highlights, Lights, Darks, or Shadows.

·         Hue

Target and alter the Hue of eight different colour ranges.

·         Saturation

Increase or decrease the Saturation of specific colour in the image.

·         Luminance

Make colour ranges lighter or darken by dragging left or right over them.

·         Grey Mix

Convert to mono then target colour ranges to lighten or darken.

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