Whether you've reached this blog willingly or by force I'm happy to have you here.
ersi marina's workroom is always open to the public, even when I am not in. Sometimes I need to sleep.
And to paint.
And to play with my four cats.
My name is Ersi Marina and I live in Spain though I was born and grew up in Athens, Greece. I kept it all very Mediterranean.
This blog is a means to share my work and snippets of my life, as well as to be in contact with you all. I hope you'll enjoy your visit.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

An easy Photoshop tutorial on lighting

Hello there! For quite some time I have been meaning to write a very simple Photoshop tutorial, especially - but not exclusively - for those of you who have online shops. There are many free online tutorials already but I'd like to add my grain of sand. The procedure I am about to describe will not have the exact same result on all images (no procedure does) but, once you understand its logic and are able to play a bit with the controls, you will be able to improve your listing images and practically any other photograph in your computer!

I only use Photoshop as an image-editing programme so I cannot tell you how other imaging software works. Sorry!

Let's start then:
Many photographs, particularly those taken with digital cameras (What! You mean there is another kind?!) have a grayish overtone that dampens colours and contrast. If we are not familiar with digital images and their workings, we might easily overlook this effect, even more so because, when we look at a picture, in our mind's eye we still 'see' the original object, person or scenery we photographed more than the shot in itself. This happens because our mind interprets and 'corrects' what we see based on what we know about it, on the original information it received on our subject. So we don't always realize how 'gray' a photograph is untill we actually try to correct it. Remember to click on the images so you can see a larger size version and appreciate the details better!

1. Open your image in Photoshop:

This is a handmade agenda I made for a friend almost a year ago. And this is the image that came out of the digital camera. It is distinctly grayish, can you tell?
2. The first thing I'll do is click on 'Image' on the main horizontal menu, rest my mouse pointer on 'Adjustments' on the drop-down menu and click on 'Auto Levels'.

The 'Auto Levels' effect can be rather discreet or very dramatic, depending on your image. In this case, the results are quite discreet and the effect is acceptable. Can you see how the image now appears better lit and has gained in contrast? Most of the grayish veil has disappeared.

3. However, I am not totally satisfied. The background cloth looks darker than in reality and the bluish purple colour is still leaning to gray. So I went back to 'Image' - 'Adjustments' and clicked on 'Levels'. Not 'Auto Levels' but the option above. Just 'Levels'.

A graphic appears in a small window with three slider controls underneath. The small triangle on the left corresponds to the darker areas in the image, the triange on the right to the lighter areas and the middle triangle will lighten or darken all areas depending on which side you move it towards. If you move the middle triangle to the left, your image will become lighter and lighter. If you move it to the right, it will become gradually darker. You can play with all three controls on the slider to see the effect they have on your image and you can choose any combination of the three adjustments that produces the effect you were looking for.

In my example, I first moved the middle triangle a bit to the left, to lighten up the entire image even more. By simply adding light to an image, what you get are grayish shadows again. The shadows are less deep than before but the 'light' thrown on them makes them appear flat and poor. So I proceeded to move the left triangle to the right. That's the triangle that deals with dark areas, remember? So I deepened the shadows again while preserving the light on the rest of the image.

I like this result better. The shadows are softer though still dark and the contrast is less dramatic. We don't need dramatic effects in the images we use for our listings, unless we are photographers and sell prints with dramatic lighting. But that's quite a different story!

4. Nevertheless, I am a perfectionist and I like trying different procedures, even if I end up discarding them. So, after coming up with a satisfactory result using the 'Auto Levels' and 'Levels' controls, I used the colour picker to select a 20% gray from the Swatches palette. If you don't have this palette on your screen, go to 'Window' on the main horizontal menu and click on 'Swatches' on the drop-down menu.

I then used the Fill-In tool at 100% opacity and flooded my image with light gray. So! No image anymore, my file went a flat light gray and that was it!

No worries. ALL the commands and filters in Photoshop can be modified in many different ways after you apply them. Click on 'Edit' on the main horizontal menu and then on 'Fade Fill-In' (or 'Fade Auto-Levels' or 'Fade Levels', etc.). Play with the options on the drop-down menu and see how your image changes. You can play with the opacity at the same time. What I did was click on 'Soft Light' on the drop-down menu and set the opacity to 26%. And this is what I came up with:

Now my image is even ligher than before. The overall bath of gray 'illuminated' everything a bit more. You need to use a light gray for this effect, because it's a neutral colour and it won't alter the original hues of your image, it will just lighten them up. Try using a light yellow and see what happens. Everything turns golden!

5. Finally, a bit of sharpening. Most photographs need a bit of sharpening, the amount differs depending on the image. Don't use the 'Sharpen' filter though. Click on 'Filter' on the main horizontal menu, rest your mouse pointer on 'Sharpen' on the drop-down menu and click on 'Unsharp Mask' on the parallel drop-down that will appear. A new small window will open and what you basically need to do is to adjust the 'Radius' slider. You will be able to see the effect live on your image, so you will know how much sharpening is good for it. Make sure the 'Preview' box is checked in the little window.

The 'Unsharp Mask' filter gives a bit of a snap to your photograph and brings up the colours a little. Can you tell the difference from the previous shot? It's subtle but it's there. It enhances the details in fabrics and the texture on papers, etc.

Do remember to click on the images to see the larger version, everything will make more sense. And keep these few things in mind:

- The item you sell must play the leading role in your photograph. Don't create busy compositions. Keep it simple and to the point.
- Lighting is crucial in photography. If what you get from your camera is not good enough, edit your image to compensate. Edit your image anyway and use 'Levels' or 'Auto Levels' to see what happens. You may then discover that what looked perfect to your eyes actually needed some postwork.
- Don't overdo it enhancing colours and contrast. Your item needs to look realistic. If dramatic effects suit you, make a copy of the file, edit it to your heart's desire and keep it for you. But don't use it for your listings, your customers will appreciate it :)

I hope this has been helpful. Have a wonderful day/afternoon/evening!
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