November 17, 2009 / Fall 2009 / Photoshop/Illustrator

Coming out of the shadows

Written by Wayne Dunn, CJE

shadows-1Make your spreads crisp and clean with properly aligned elements.

We know the assignment. An activity, presentation or portrait needs to be taken during the middle of the day at school and the sun is blazing, causing such deep shadows in the eyes of the people that we see raccoons where we thought people were. Unless you thought ahead and used flash, the photo will not be ideal.

Luckily the folks at Adobe have had to face the same problem, so they incorporated a nifty tool under the Image-Adjustments menu called Shadow/Highlights.

The default, when selected, overcompensates by reducing the value of the shadow areas to 50%. For normal looks, it is better to limit the amount of shadow reduction to about 20%, but as is apparent in this sample, sometimes a bit more is better.

Another problem is the skin tone turns a bit orange. The color adjustment at the bottom of the window helps to control that.

The highlight slider can pump detail back into an area that has faint imagery, but looks blown out. So for this senior portrait, I pulled the shadow slider down to 37% reduction and adjusted the midtone color correction to -5.shadows-2

Comparing the photo as shot on the right, with the adjusted one on the left, it is easy to see the improvement. We have a useable photo from one simple adjustment control. Of course we could add adjustment layers and experiment with blending, but this is simple and effective. Simple is good.

Wayne Dunn, CJE