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A bad eye is the problem
So, my (not too easy, I guess) question is this: how does one go about training the eye? Are there books for that? Other places to go to gaining a more discerning sense of what might be improvable in a picture?
Absent a better eye, I'm stuck with true directionless trial and error, which is not a particularly good way to proceed!
Try studying the before and after pictures in the book, and seek out similar books about Photoshop in general, and try to see in the "before" pictures, what problems are similar to your own photos.
Also many continuing education schools have classes in Photoshop, which might be useful in providing guided learning in evaluating and correcting images.
no easy answer - practice
awareness (I am not being smart) is the key ... here are some questions to ask yourself when looking at a photo ... all of these questions exist within the context of what you expect the subject to look like (skin in bright light, a black cat, etc.)
Judging brightness and contrast, do overall brightness first because it will hide the contrast problems, then do contrast, then do color, then saturation (or saturation before color - I have switched back and forth on that one)
To judge brightness and contrast
-do the highlights look muddy?, lightest tones feel slightly grey? they are too dark
-do the highlights feel to empty? they are to light
-do the blacks feel not quite rich? they are too light
-do the blacks seem empty and the highlights grey, the whole image is too dark
-do the blacks feel a little weak and the highlights a little lacking in detail? the whole image is too light
-does the subject not have the roundness in form that you would like to 'jump off the page'? needs more mid-tone contrast
-does the subject feel 'garrish', lower mid-tone contrast
To judge color balance
-look only at nuetral areas, areas that are nore grey than color - the brighter the color the harder it is to see a color cast, nuetral areas aren't always grey, but they are never vibrant. of the same color shadows are more desaturated (nuetral - total desaturation is grey) than area lit by the light source.
Then get in the babit of looking at the info pallete and and comparing the different channels - compare the channels to the color that is in the middle in terms of brightness. For instance R:156 G: 140 B:160, Red is in the middle, if Green andBlue where both 156 the result would be grey ... so this color is a little Blue and a little Magenta (the opposite of Green - since the Green number is lower than the Red, the middle color number) - with practice you will be able to 'double-check' whether yours 'eyes' are fooling you.
Saturation is the one that I have the most problem knowing what is exactly 'right'. I just play it be feel - if the colors feel a little muddy I up it, if they feel a little plastic and unreal I lower it ...
Try not to accept what you see, but to look at highlights, midtones and shadows and to try to imagine for yourself the answer to each of these questions ...
-what would this tone look like a little lighter?
-what would this tone look like a little darker?
-what would this tone look like more saturated? less saturated?
-a slight adjsutment in color?
The best learning comes from imagining first, before trying - it is amazing the difference, I should have only said this, but it took this far for me to remember to say it ...
Hope this helps,
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