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Photoshop has a magical attraction to me. I enjoy tweaking and searching for options to stretch the boundaries of photographic possibility; to balance on the edge between ‘real’ and ‘fake’.

Study after study has shown that seeing manipulated photos of others can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. It really bothers me, that even though I am fully aware of this fact, I still contribute to these fake world creations.

 

MY PERSONAL ETHICS IN DIGITAL PHOTO MANIPULATION

I started this blog series to explain what it is that I do and why.

In this post I will focus on the most “innocent” way of manipulating images: changing color and light by slider adjustments.

QUICK AND SIMPLE PHOTOSHOP ADJUSTMENTS

The alterations in this post all cost less than 5 minutes of work. They are a matter of pushing and pulling some sliders up and down to fix the flaws.

These small changes can make a big impact.

Camera RAW slider adjustments

To me, this is the necessary part of digital photography and nowhere near creating false or fake realities.

Of course, it is up to me if I try to get closer to what I have seen or to what I wish I had seen. But I do think this is photography post-production in a pure form, as it resembles the dark room where photos once were developed and manipulated by the older generation of photographers.

* the example edits below are all mixes of different Camera Raw slider adjustments. I picked the ones that give the best explanation of the different alterations, but the final result is never obtained by only using 1 adjustment.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PHOTOSHOP SLIDER ADJUSTMENTS?

1. EXPOSURE

Exposure handles the amount of light of the overall photo. This is the first adjustment to make. Always. It gives you a better base to work with when starting anything else in Photoshop.

Underexposed photos are too dark, overexposed are too bright.

I am often surprised that even the worst photos can be recovered by adjusting the exposure slider.

Overexposed  |  Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, Sept 2019
Underexposed  |  Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, Sept 2019

2. CONTRAST

The difference in brightness between the different tonal ranges of an image. Contrast is the master of color and shades: increasing it makes a photo more dramatic, decreasing gives it a softer touch.

Contrast controls how sharply colors stand out from eachother.

Isla Holbox, Mexico, Dec 2017

3. HIGHLIGHTS & SHADOWS

Pretty self explanatory: the highlights will only affect the light parts of your photo, while shadows work on the dark parts. So in this case I took the highlights almost all the way down to recover the blown out parts and the shadows all the way up to get back the darker details.

Making photos against the sun is always a bit tricky, but these two sliders are a livesafer when it comes to creating a better balanced lightning situation in any photo.

Uluwatu beach, Bali , Sept 2018

5. WHITES & BLACKS

Since we are clearly talking about light and dark again you will probably wonder what the difference is with the above Highlights and Shadows. What you should remember here is that shadows are actually never pitchblack, but a darker version of the color of it’s subject.

Anything that is very bright or dark but still holds some detail falls under a highlight or shadow. Contrary, Whites controls all pixels that are completely white, Blacks the ones that are completely black.

Whites can therefore be used to reset off-white to full clear white like below.

Mexico, Dec 2017

7. TEXTURE, CLARITY & DEHAZE

When you want more power and detail, these are the adjustments to use. Especially when you have a “hazy” image, it can really benefit from playing around with this trio to get the desired sharper looking effect.

Texture – To bring a slightly unsharp area back to focus. Lower the texture and it will smooth everything out.

Clarity – For sharpness and overall contrast in the mid-tone areas. Adds depth.

Dehaze – Increases contrast, darkness and saturation. Replaces lost color.

Table Mountain, Cape-town , March 2018
Rwanda , Jan 2020

10. VIBRANCE & SATURATION

These two are all about color. They can make a boring photo instantly more interesting!

Vibrance – Changes the saturation of the lower-saturated colors with less effect on the colors that are already saturated (which is often better for skintones).

Saturation – Adjusts the saturation of the full picture.

Rosberg beach, Ireland, Nov 2015

WHERE CAN I FIND THESE ADJUSTMENT SLIDERS?

Most photo editing software use the same type of sliders. So either in Lightroom, Capture One or Photoshop – you will be able to apply these edits.

Below you find a tutorial on how to improve your photography with the Camera RAW adjustment sliders inside Adobe Photoshop.

Using the Camera RAW filter sliders | Ireland, 2016

SO, DOES USING ADJUSTMENT SLIDERS COUNT AS CHEATING?

I don’t think so. A raw file does not contain all this information for nothing, right? It is designed especially to use these sliders. So you should!

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