Walking through my Theme Thursday process reaped loads of benefits. I'm the kind of person who understands best when she puts things to words and tries to explain them to others. So . . . let's do it again! And maybe these photo experiments will be mutually beneficial. I'd be pleased to hear any feedback, whether it is, "I love it," or "it looks too dark/light/blurry/pixelated;" or specific advice on how to improve or execute the techniques I'm attempting below. Likewise, don't hesitate to ask me any questions. If not for the interactive nature of the internet, I'd probably not learn as much as I am.
The photo on the left was shot in RAW format and loaded directly into Photoshop Elements. The one on the right is after I manually changed the contrast by deepening the shadows using the Adjust Lighting feature under the Enhance tab. When I used the eyedropper tool and clicked on the darkest spot on the photograph, it made the entire picture too dark, so I slid the shadow tab to the right along the meter instead.
The powdered doughnut is overexposed, meaning its so bright that there is no detail. It is the whitest thing in the picture, though, so I'm not sure how I'd go about restoring detail to it, or if I'd even want to.
I zoomed in very close to examine the noise in the shadowed areas, which was more prominent than usual, despite the bright lighting, because I shot in RAW (JPEG has automatic noise reduction which, I have read, is not as thorough or sophisticated as the noise reduction features in Photoshop and other editing programs). So I went to the Filter tab, scrolled down to Noise, and clicked on Noise Reduction. I slid the noise reduction meter all the way to the right (it read "10"), which smoothed over the grainy spots professionals call "noise." However, some of the detail is lost. So I applied the Auto Sharpen tool, and the result is the first picture below.
Directly below the noise reduction bar is a Keep Details bar. I undid the Auto Sharpen and slid the marker on the details meter all the way to the right. It made a sort of blend of the two. Without it, the Squirt's face looked air-brushed, which can be nice, but I'm focusing on my particular weakness of detail. That resulted in the second picture below.
They're very similar, and it's easier to see the differences when you zoom in on a particular object, such as the face or the chair in the background.
1: adjusted lighting, which altered contrast, removed noise and sharpened
2: undid sharpening, added Keep Details feature
Which of the two do you like best?
I liked the first one best, so I took that and applied the Coffeeshop Blog's free Once Upon a Time action. (An action is a combination of Photoshop alterations applied all at once--one can then go back and alter the individual tools after they have already been applied as they have been separated into "layers." Right? People who know what they're talking about, feel free to jump in here!) I made most of the layers invisible. The only alterations left visible were the Gaussian Blur--adjusted by sizing a perforated box to determine the place where the blur will not occur--and contrast, which I left on 100%. That's the second photo below. I made the Color Pop layer visible and kept it at 100% for the first photo.
3: added Gaussian Blur, Color Pop, and Contrast
4: removed Color Pop layer by rendering it invisible
Can you see a difference? The bottom picture is less saturated.
I made the banner photo at the top of the post by loading picture #1 to picmonkey.com, applying the Tranquil filter at about 50%, cropping, and adding text. So there you go. I'm probably doing all sorts of Wrong and making things more complicated than necessary, and one day will look back on this with painful hindsight.