Stephen Johnson Tutorial: Photoshop CS6 and RAW
(excerpt from the book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography unreleased revised electronic version)
Control of Highlight and Shadows, for Real
With the release of Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6, we now have a power in Adobe RAW processors to hold shadow and highlight detail like never before. Their new Black, Shadow, White and Highlight sliders essentially allow you to smoothly narrow the dynamic range of the interpreted capture through the RAW processor.
This is a capability I've been lobbying Adobe for for many years and through a few versions, so I am delighted it is now available for us all to use.
This has already enabled me to "rescue" high dynamic range images that really did have critical detail locked up at both ends of the histogram. In some cases it has already worked better than combining an HDR set, making me able to do more with a single, albeit difficult capture, than with a set of bracketed exposures as candidates for HDR. It also might be an easier way to avoid the extra-planetary weird look that so many HDR files seem trapped in.
This is a capability I've been asking for many years, and I had even sketched out various ways of handling the interface for Adobe, so I am delighted to have this power in place. It is a huge step forward for my RAW processing.
My general methodology on a very contrasty photograph is to move both the Black and Shadow sliders up, and the White and Highlight sliders down, to generally lower the contrast of the interpretation and getting control over the extremes of the encoded raw data.
I then fine tune the blacks and whites to only as much shadow lightening as is really needed, and the highlights to only as much highlight darkening as needed. This can easily yield a somewhat gray interpretation, but that is fine with me as I always emphasize that I use the RAW processor to reveal and preserve information, moving it toward what I want the photograph to look like. I leave the heavy lifting of real image editing to the powerhouse of control and finesse that is Photoshop.
Here is one example of both default (contrasty) processing and one customized as I've described.
NEW: By the way, there is a class concentrating on Photoshop CS6 coming up:
Photographers & Photoshop Series
You can download a free 30-day trial of Adobe Photoshop CS6 here.
Adobe's New RAW Processor Interface in Camera RAW's Basic Tab
Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley
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