How To Making Selective Adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop

The more you work with Lightroom and Photoshop, the more you'll see opportunities to improve specific areas within your photos for maximum impact. The techniques covered in this chapter have shown you how to use the selected correction tools in Lightroom and create selections and layer masks in Photoshop for precise control. This How To will give you insight into the thought process behind assessing and executing these corrections.

This image has been corrected using the basic suite of tools found in Lightroom's Develop module. Overall, the color balance, exposure, and contrast are correct. Many photographers would be happy with the image as is.

Given the selective correction tools, however, I think it can be made even better.

Looking at the image, the cyclist doesn't have enough contrast to stand out sufficiently from the background. Because the detail on the cyclist falls on the shadow end of the spectrum, adding contrast to these areas is best done in Photoshop using Curves instead of in Lightroom. While Lightroom's Adjustment Brush is an excellent tool, it doesn't provide the fine control over shadow detail and contrast that Curves provides.

Press cmd-e (Mac) or ctrl-e (Windows) to open the image into Photoshop CS4. If prompted, click Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments and check the Stack with Original checkbox. This will bring your corrected file back into the Lightroom library.

Once in Photoshop, I'll create a Curves adjustment layer. Using the On-image adjustment tool to assess the range of tonal values on the rider, I create a steep curve to lighten and add contrast to the shadows and dark midtones.

Pressing cmd-i (Mac) or ctrl-i (Windows) inverts the mask, filling it with black and hiding my correction.

Using a soft brush with the Brush tool set to 50 percent opacity, I paint with white over the key lines in the rider's jersey, helmet, face, and bike. Instead of painting completely over the rider, I'm painting along key lines that I want to bring forward. For example, I'm painting over the rider's left arm, but not his torso, to create visual separation between the two elements.

Next, I switch to 30 percent opacity and paint with white over the bike tire, hub, fork, shoe, and highlight in the front wheel. These are all key portions of the bike and rider, and I want them to stand out.

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Choosing a lower opacity ensures they do so, but it does not call attention from the rider.

I'm happy with the correction and can now turn my attention to secondary elements within the photo, namely the road. I feel the road could use more contrast to enhance the appearance of the motion blur in the foreground and emphasize the dappled highlights.

I create another curve and boost the shadows in this one as well. I'll also slide the shadow point slightly from left to right to deepen the shadows.

This improves the road but adds too much contrast in the rocks behind the rider, so I'll apply a quick gradient mask using the Gradient tool to remove this contrast adjustment from the top half of the image.

For a final touch, I'll add a bit of warmth to the shadows in the road by creating a Curves adjustment and adding 2 points of red and subtracting 4 points of blue.

These three steps improve the quality of the picture significantly. Don't you agree?
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Understanding Adobe Photoshop Features You Will Use

Understanding Adobe Photoshop Features You Will Use

Adobe Photoshop can be a complex tool only because you can do so much with it, however for in this video series, we're going to keep it as simple as possible. In fact, in this video you'll see an overview of the few tools and Adobe Photoshop features we will use. When you see this video, you'll see how you can do so much with so few features, but you'll learn how to use them in depth in the future videos.

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