Band on beaches of Negril, Jamaica (April 2005)
Bright sun can counter a great beach shot. It’s easy to fix the typical problems with beach photographs in bright sun. Take look at the problems with the original photo that I would like to fix:
- Sky is a bit washed out
- Color is not popping
- Some of the faces are shadowed, especially the guy with the cap
- The reflective sand washes out details
- There’s a bit of shake to the focus
- Needs serious cropping
- Could be straightened
- A few background distractions that are not relevant to the photo
There are many different ways to approach it, but here is a fast way to get you to a decent rendition fairly quickly. Here is the original photo.
For those of you who are super fast and want to run through the steps to get to the final version, here are all the Windows shortcuts used in order:
- Hit C
- Adjust photo frame with mouse
- Hit ENTER to crop photo
- Hit CTRL 0 (zero) to fill the image into the workspace
- Adjust highlights/shadows with Levels
- ALT L, J, L, ENTER –this will add a new level. Press ENTER to use the defaults for now.
- Use mouse to slide histogram black/white towards center to remove empty space. Always check the image as you go.
- Brighten sky
- CTRL SHIFT N - Add a new blank layer. Call it “Brighten sky”
- D – resets colors. Use W to swap to ensure black is the foreground
- G – selects Gradient tool, Drag a line perpendicular with the horizon line
- Right click image to choose Foreground to Transparent
- Change blend mode to overlay
- ALT L, M, R - Add a layer maskrengthen overall colors
- B – set to brush
- Use mouse to paint – brackets  to enlarge and reduce the brush size. SHIFT to soften the edges
- Remove distracting clutter
- Select the background and press CTRL+J to duplicate it.
- S - Choose the clone stamp tool.
- Press ALT at the left side of the swimmer or any other unwanted objects, removing them with clicks.
- Sharpen image
- Alt T, S, U - this will apply the Unsharp Mask
- Alt A. Type 90 to Choose 90% as the Amount. Radius is ok at 2.
- Spot adjust dark and light spots
- Create a new layer – name it Dodge and Burn
- Choose Overlay as the mode, set opacity to 10% and check the box to fill with overlay of 50% gray.
- D – for default colors of black/white. X to swap
- B – for brush. Use the foreground as black to darken the sand. Use the foreground as white to lighten any shadows, such as the one cast by the cap.
Let’s walk through these steps with photos. You can follow along by clicking on the original photo and then saving it to your hard drive.
Obviously the easiest place to start is by cropping the photo. After you hit C, you will get the crop indicator that you can adjust to a size that gets rid of the ugly date/time as well as the foreground distractions.
Add a new layer for Levels. You can do that from the lower right hand icon menu, or with the keyboard shortcuts mentioned above. To change the level name you can just double click on the name.
This is actually not a bad level histogram – the first thing I do is look to the far right and far left for any empty “hills”. If I see them, I drag over the black or white arrows to remove them. In this case, you can see that there is a gap on the far left of the histogram, so I just slide the black arrow a bit over to the left, to look like such. It’s always a good idea to play with the center grey arrow to help adjust midtones. When I am done, this is what my histogram looks like:
Next let’s play with the sky and make it pop! Create a new blank layer (CTRL SHIFT N). Give it a name, e.g. brighten sky. Click D to get the default foreground color as Black. Hit G to get the Gradient tool activated and then drag a line from the top of the sky into the horizon. Ensure it’s perpendicular to the horizon as such:
Now you’ll end up with what looks like an ugly dark fog settling into the band. Now right click on the image to choose Foreground to Transparent (The second box from left in top row).
In layers windows, change the blend mode to overlay:
Immediately you will see the sky darken. The same happens for the band’s face. We will need to delete the unwanted darkening with a mask. Add a layer mask: Select the Brush tool (Press B). Now you will erase the dark fog from the unwanted parts of your photo. Ensure that the foreground is set to black. And “paint” with the brush, erasing the darkness.
When you are satisfied, we will move onto the next step, which is removing the distracting background clutter, such as the boat and the swimmer:
Select the background and press CTRL+J to duplicate the background into a layer that we can edit. Double click on the name and call it “Remove clutter”. Select the clone brush, using ALT to select a starting point a little left of the swimmer, and then “erase” him, by clicking over his body until he is gone. Do the same for the boat.
We can use this same image to sharpen the features of our singers. Select Filter, Sharpen, Unsharp Mask. Use 90% as the amount and 2.0 as the radius. Feel free to play around with these numbers, examining the preview for impact:
Lastly we are going to create a Dodge & Burn layer to spot adjust dark and light areas. Create a new layer, name it Dodge & Burn. To create a new layer, click on the layer icon along while pressing the ALT key, this will pop up the dialog box:
Choose Overlay as the mode, set opacity to 10% and check the box to fill with overlay of 50% gray. Click D to set the default foreground colors of black and white. Use the foreground as black to darken the sand. Use the foreground as white to lighten any shadows, such as the one cast by the cap. Click B to activate the brush and make your changes.
That’s it, you have made considerable progress since the flat, damp state before these changes.