Photoshop Adjustment Brush: how to make quick, localised tweaks to exposure

    | Photoshop Tutorials | Tutorials | 02/04/2013 17:28pm
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    In our latest Raw Tuesday tutorial on editing raw format files we show you how to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make precise selective exposure adjustments to your images.

    Photoshop Adjustment Brush: how to make quick, localised exposure tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw

    When shooting a backlit subject like our paddling toddler, your camera’s Evaluative metering mode may close down the aperture to avoid over-exposing the image’s brightest areas.

    It won’t understand that the main point of interest is the subject’s face, so it allows these areas to be plunged into shadow.

    You could try changing the Metering mode to Spot and exposing for the face, but this can cause the background highlights to become blown out.

    Our before image

    Our before image

    Or you could manually trigger the flash to fill in any under-exposed shadows. But sometimes a photo opportunity is fleeting, so you may have to shoot first and ask camera setting questions later!

    If you shoot in compressed JPEG format, you could try using Photoshop’s Shadow/Highlight command to brighten a shot’s shadows to reveal more detail. However, this can also reveal picture noise in the adjusted areas.

    A JPEG’s brightened shadows tend to look quite desaturated too. By shooting in raw format you’ll have much more tonal and colour information to work with, and the Adjustment Brush in CS4’s version of Adobe Camera Raw enables you to dodge or burn specific areas with precision.

    Here, we’ll show you how to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to target the boy’s under-exposed face and body, and gently brighten them to make him stand out. You’ll also learn how to use extra raw-editing tools such as masks to discover which areas are being altered and then fine-tune them if necessary.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 1

    01 Open and crop
    Click on the link to download the Advanced folder. Go to File>Open. Browse to your start image and click Open. The image will open in Adobe Camera Raw. Hold down the mouse on the Crop tool, then untick Constrain to Image. Drag the crop window over the image and hit Return to lose the foreground rocks.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 2

    02 Clobber clipping
    Press 0 to view any over-exposed highlights as patches of red. You’ll notice these blown out (clipped) areas on the boy’s sunlit shoulder and in the specular highlights on the water. Drag the Recovery slider to 30 to claw back missing highlight detail. The red patches will vanish.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 3

    03 Make global adjustments
    Set Exposure to +1.00 and Contrast to +56. This brightens up the face, but the rest of the shot is over-exposed. Luckily you can take these settings and apply them to specific areas using the Adjustment Brush. Restore Exposure to 0.00 and Contrast to +25.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 4

    04 Grab the Adjustment Brush
    Grab the Adjustment Brush from the top tool bar. The Exposure and Contrast settings you used in the previous step are perfect to brighten up the boy’s under-exposed face, so set Exposure to +1.00 and Contrast to +56. Set Size to 7 and Feather to 60.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 5

    05 Lighten the face
    By default the Adjustment Brush is set to New. Click to place a pin on the boy’s face. Spray the tip over his face to lighten it using the desired Exposure and Contrast settings. This makes a tonal adjustment that lightens the face, leaving other areas untouched.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 6

    06 Target the top
    In the Adjustment Brush panel, click New. Click to place a new pin on the boy’s backlit blue top. Dial down the strength of the adjustment by setting Exposure to +0.60. Set Contrast to +40 and Size to 10. Spray over the sweatshirt, hat, hands and feet to lighten.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 7

    07 Marvellous masks
    Tick the Show Mask box. Any areas being adjusted by the second pin will show as grey patches. Spray to include any bits of sweatshirt you’ve missed. To remove areas from the adjustment tick Erase and spray over. Untick Show Mask when you’ve finished.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 8

    08 Darken the parents
    The background parents are a little washed out. Click New in the Adjustment Brush panel. Set Exposure to -40, Contrast to 0 and Size to 7. Click to place a pin on a background figure. Spray to darken – this helps them stand out from the light background.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 9

    09 Brighten the eyes
    The boy’s eyes are a key feature, but they are still a little under-exposed. Click New and set Size to 4. Click to place a pin on the left eye. Set Exposure to +0.35 and Contrast to +47. Spray on the eyes to lighten (dodge) them. This gives them more impact.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 10

    10 Global adjustments
    Click on the Zoom tool to exit the Adjustment Brush panel and access the Basic panel. For stronger shadows, set Blacks to 10. You can also brighten the midtones a little by sliding Fill Light to 7. For more striking colours, set Vibrance to +36.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 11

    11 Remove dirt
    By brightening the face we’ve revealed some dirt, so grab the Spot Removal tool and set Type to Heal. Click and drag to draw a red circle over a dirty patch. Drag the connected green circle to a clear patch of skin to replace the dirt. Repeat to clean the face.

    How to use the Photoshop Adjustment Brush to make selective adjustments: step 12

    12 Fine-tune the effects
    The great thing about editing in raw is that the changes you make are non-destructive. Click back on the Adjustment Brush, then click on the pin that controls the facial adjustment. Drag Exposure up to +1.10 to brighten this important area a little more.

    READ MORE

    Adobe Lightroom Basics: 6 things you need to know getting started
    Adobe Camera Raw: the secret to using it for just about everything
    How to process raw images the right way


    Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 at 5:28 pm under Photoshop Tutorials, Tutorials.

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