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Using Hidden Powers for major exposure problems

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  • Using Hidden Powers for major exposure problems

    Hi Richard,
    I have purchased your book the Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 2, and I have learned much. However, I do not seem to understand how, if possible, to improve a precious photograph of my daughter kissing me at her wedding. My wife took it quickly as my daughter was getting ready. The flash did not flash. It's the worst of all possible situations photographically: Her white dress and veil in front of a bright window with me next to her in black more in the shadows. I have spent many hours trying your tools, but I do not get what to do if anything is possible.

    Your comments about [ctrl][alt][~] led me to think that there must be something possible. I have tried working with transparent grayscale and separations, but I cannot get a proper exposure to our faces, her dress and veil. Also, any improvement I have tried makes her face look blotchy and she has very fair skin.

    If you can pull this miracle off, I am sure it would be very informative for many situations.

    Thank you so much,
    p.s., the untouched photo is about 2mb, which exceeds your limit.

  • #2
    Hi Pop, welcome to RetouchPro!

    We would be glad to help ... but in order to know if we can we need to see the photo. If you can, resize the image before converting to a jpeg for posting so that we can see it and give you our 2 cents. Around here it usually adds up to enough change to actually buy something

    Good luck, let us know if you need help resizing for posting ...



    • #3
      Wedding photo resize for post

      Yes, I guess I do need help. I tried elements email to myself, but that's still too big. I tried jpeg save as, but even at 0 quality it's too big. I'm not sure what resize and resample to do that won't lose so much information that it will not be useful.

      The original is ISO 100, 1/40sec, F2.0 with no flash. The origina jpeg size is 2560px by 1920px at 72ppi for 1.93M.

      Thank you so much your help,


      • #4

        First try resizing your image to 800x600 pixels keeping the resolution at 72 dpi. Then use the Save for Web option of PS Elements to save the image as a JPEG. You'll have to play with the JPEG quality level keeping an eye on the file size of the "optimized" version to make it under 100KB.

        If you want a more detailed explanation of the various things that affect file size, please see this tip.

        Hope this helps,


        • #5
          Wedding picture Pop and yougest daughter

          Ok, here it is.
          Thanks, Pop
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Hi Pop,

            I'm using PS7, so I'm not 100% sure that everything I've done is possible in PSE, but with Richard's tools, I'm sure you can get really close.

            1. Copied the background layer to a new layer. Desaturated the new layer and inverted (so it looked like a B&W negative). Changed the blending mode of the new layer to overlay and ran a Gaussian blur (around 8 I think, but you'll need it to be a little higher working on your full-sized image.)

            2. Duplicated the image & flattened. Changed the mode to grayscale and ran Gaussian blur around 2.5.

            3. Back at the original image, I merged all visible layers onto a new layer. (I'm not sure you have the Alt-Ctl-Shift-E in PSE, if not, just flatten the image.) Then I loaded the selection of the grayscale image. (I.e., in the load selection dialog, I set the source to the duplicate image and "grayscale" should be the name of the selection. Also, check the "invert" box.)

            4. Once the selection is loaded, press Ctl-J to copy the selection to a new layer. Then fill the new layer with 50% gray color in Color Dodge mode at 70% opacity with "preserve transparency checked.)

            5. This looked too saturated, so I created a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and grouped it with the layer I just filled setting the saturation to 0.

            6. Repeated steps 2-5 once, this time reducing the fill layer to 70% opacity and only desaturating 50%.

            7. Added a curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast just slightly.

            8. Merged all visible layers to a new layer then ran the Unsharp filter. Applied a layer mask to "erase" the sharpening in the background (it overpowered the subjects.)

            9. Rotated to straighten the picture (using the ceiling line as a quide.)

            The color (esp. skin tones) is still off some I think, but I don't have enough time to clean that up right now. Hopefully this gets you close to what you want.


            P.S. The only detail I was able to find in your black jacket was the lapel line. Everything else just seems to be digital noise - no detail.
            Attached Files


            • #7
              Fix exposure in PSE2 (long)

              I don't think you will find all the selection tools described above in Elements. Sometimes we make things too difficult and overlook the simple.

              Try this in elements. Duplicate the background and set blending mode to screen, duplicate the background copy, duplicate the bg copy 2, duplicate bg copy 3, duplicate bg copy 4, duplicate bg copy 5. All 5 copies blend mode should be "screen".

              Turn off visibility on original background layer, click off eye icon to turn off visibility just on bottom layer. Next Layer > merge visible. You will now have only two layers, the background layer and a merged background copy 5. Make the background layer visible again.

              If you have Richards free extra tools then add a layer mask to copy 5 layer. You can download these tools here; .

              Click on the mask thumbnail to be sure you are painting on the mask and paint with black on the blownout room to bring back the original detail. Go ahead and paint over the veil also. Zoom in close and use a small brush around the people. You will have a small transistion line at the brides left arm but we will fix it later. Don't forget the areas between the two people. You can toggle on and off the background layer to check your mask.
              Once you have your mask just right, then ctrl + alt + click, the mask thumbnail to turn it into a selection. Use the freehand selection set to "add to selection" to add the veil to your selection. Clean up the selection very carefully. Very important - Save this selection and name it.

              Now activate the background copy 5 image thumbnail to get off the mask. Add a levels adjustment layer making sure your selection is still on. This will apply the adjustment to the selection only. Use the white eyedropper to set the color balance. You will have to try several different spots on the brides dress resetting after each until you get it just right. You may also adjust the center slider to adjust midtones in the faces. Click OK. Deselect everything. Make a new selection of the Fathers head and the brides head, shoulders and arm. Add a new adjustment layer hue-saturation. Desaturate the selection to taste. OK.

              Make a new blank layer at the top of the layer stack. Ctrl + shift + alt + e will merge all the layers into the new top layer leaving all below intact. Now on the new top layer use the paint brush tool with mode set to color and the eyedropper to select color touch up the yellow spots on the fathers face and any other spots. Using the clone, dodge, and burn tools fix the transition between the brides arm and the veil.

              This is a very rough and quick explaination but it does work.
              Activate the top completed layer, select all, copy, file > new from clipboard. Save all the working layer image as a Photoshop file to keep your work and the new from clipboard image is your new photo. By saving the layer image you can go back and load the selection to copy the couple into a new background at any time. I hope this helps. CaseyJ


              • #8
                Pop, this could be tweaked to perfection, it is a very nice photo and very workable. I think the goal here is to be able to see your expressions easily and to have it look natural. Since you are beginning at all this stuff lets start you out with something that will get you most of the way there. We are always learning, some of the solutions that are more complicated fix the little problems left over after the major work is done.

                These lists of steps given by us make it feel more like a recipe to follow than it really is. It is really a series of techniques, trials and understandings that are strung together as we work though an image. To that end, here is the easy way that gets you most of the way there, then as you learn more you can go back to the same photo and tweak it to perfection.

                In order to lighten the photo I duplicated the layer and changed it to screen blending mode. That wasn't light enough so I duplicated that new layer. The photo is now light enough to see your faces easily given the lighting and the natural ambiance which is very sweet - but it is over saturated, so I added a new hue/saturation adjustment layer and lowered the saturation to what I liked.

                You will notice that I also cropped out the blue thing, just a matter of taste. You can go further in lightening this - but the more you do the more difficult you will make it.

                As a side note you can add an adjustment layer (any of them) in screen mode and it will also lighten the photo. I have not tried each mode in screen with adding the adjustment availible in the adjustment layer (curves, levels, hue/saturation, etc.) so I don't know if there is a subtle advantage. In Photoshop there is usually at least five ways to do anything!

                Hope this helps and gets you started, Roger
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Pop, congratulations! I have a 12 year old daughter and can only imagine how special that day is for you and yours...

                  I followed the same method Roger gave you (extra layers in screen mode, then removing the blown highlights, adjusted hue and saturation, etc).

                  But you might also consider blurring the background slightly. Add another layer, blur it slightly with gaussian blur, then add a layer mask and paint with black to remove the blurring on you and your daughter...

                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    I agree with both Casey and Jeanie. Sometimes we do ignore the simple, but sometimes complex procedures aren't "hard".

                    To make this correction (and even in my example I'm not doing all I can), you have to use selection and/or masking to target some corrections. Notably, you will want to make some specific corrections to the people. I did this selection with layer clipping, because I like the method. I isolated the people and applied several overlay changes (which are very similar to what Jeanie did). With them isolated, I took the opportunity to adjust some color (Hue/saturation and Color Balance and curves).

                    Then I isolated the flowers to pump up their color. I used Hue/Saturation on the flowers, again with a layer clipping mask.

                    The clipping layers and selection were done quickly, using a somewhat soft paintbrush...They could have been better, but I wasn't working on the original so didn't see the point in getting too exact.

                    When all was done in the corrections, I finished off with 2 sharpenings, one to raise local contrast, and the other to snap up the detail.

                    All of this is discussed in my book. I did not worry about the jpeg compression and fixing that damage...your result should probably not have so much.

                    I am hoping to include 2 images here, my result and a screen shot of the layers. You might think there are too many layers...but sometimes the tougher corrections need more space to play in!



                    If you need more details, please let me know.


                    • #11
                      Thank yous

                      I want to thank jeaniesa, caseyJ, roger_ele, sdubose99, and Richard Lynch for their kindness. I have much to ponder here. I don't see all these options even with the tools. Maybe I need an update. Thanks again for your suggestions and your time. I'm move. Pop.


                      • #12
                        Please let me know what tools you believe you might be missing. I don't believe you'll need an update, you just might not be looking for them in the right places. Everything I did was either done with my tools or from scratch. The whole thing took no more than 15 minutes.

                        Let me know.


                        • #13
                          More info.

                          Richard I accept your kind offer for more detail regarding your methods used to produce the layers shown in

                          Layer clipping technique and any other detail.

                          Thank you so much, Pop.


                          • #14
                            Can you look back at the description I gave and let me know what parts or words/descriptions you don't feel you've understood? I could spend abou a book worth of words on it :-) .


                            • #15
                              Which tools for brightening?

                              Hi everyone
                              I am wondering about the relative merits of the different methods of brightening an underexposed photo. For example, how does one choose between the screen blend mode of CaseyJ (also adobe’s recipe), the overlay method I think Richard and Jeanie use, and using the levels midtone slider from Richard’s book or others .

                              I take a lot of underexposed photographs because I am frequently taking pictures or events inside where a flash would be ineffective or undesirable.

                              In my few experiments the “screen” method seems better than the levels slider but I can't say I'd bet there was any real difference. Richard's description of “overlay” in his book – darkens the light colors and lightens the dark ones with extremes less effected -would suggest it reduces the contrast in the midtones (??) while the description of “screen” seems to lighten everything (??). Are there choices that would more correspond to a “brighter room”? What about the ever tempting “enhance>adjust brightness/contrast” or the levels midtone slider??



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