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Author Topic: A Not-So-Unique Approach to Tonal Selections  (Read 7886 times)
amcananey
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« on: February 13, 2008, 02:39:14 PM »
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but the technique described by Charles Cramer here (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/Cramer_Selections.shtml) sounds exactly like the approach taken by LightZone, except that in LightZone, this is a very intuitive, 10-second, non-destructive edit. Plus, LightZone also let's you do this kind of thing by only choosing to edit a color (rather than a tonal range).

I'm not trying to detract from Mr. Cramer's contribution. I appreciate the effort he went through to prepare this article and I am sure it will come in handy to people who don't want to buy LightZone.

But we should also give credit to the folks at LightZone, who realized the power of this approach and have made it very easy to execute.

Best regards,
Adam
« Last Edit: February 13, 2008, 02:40:13 PM by amcananey » Logged
michael
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2008, 03:19:59 PM »
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As with almost everything in digital imaging there are multiple ways to accomplish the same or similar tasks. If one were to list all of the possibilities (including commercial ones like Lightzone) the list would be very long indeed.

Charlie's Photoshop method appeals because it's free.

Michael
« Last Edit: February 13, 2008, 03:20:30 PM by michael » Logged
jdemott
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2008, 03:50:24 PM »
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Why not use the Blend If sliders in the Layer Blending Options dialog, rather than going through the hassle of trying to "lock down" the curve?  Simply make a quick and dirty lasso selection as Charlie suggests and then create a curves adjustment layer that achieves whatever you want to accomplish (e.g., brightening the river), without worrying about what happens to the other tones. Then right click on the layer icon to bring up Blending Options.  Move the sliders for the Blend If control on the Underlying Layer until satisfied that you have isolated the Curves adjustment to the desired tonal range.  By alt-clicking on the sliders, you  can split them so that there is a gradual transition.  This method makes it much easier to fine tune the adjustment and see what you are doing.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2008, 03:00:08 AM »
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Why not use the Blend If sliders in the Layer Blending Options dialog, rather than going through the hassle of trying to "lock down" the curve? 
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=174657\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
A pro of the "locked curve", imho, is that you can have a visual link from image to the curve while dragging in the image : this object is here on the curve, and that one is there.
Another is that you can visualize what the contrast will be, simply with the curve's slope.

The "blend-if" method is another path to the same Rome, but you have first to guess where to put your "blend-if" slider (or watch the little RGB numbers in the dedicated palette). Not a big hassle, of course! Thanks to have pointed it out.
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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amcananey
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2008, 03:43:21 AM »
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As with almost everything in digital imaging there are multiple ways to accomplish the same or similar tasks. If one were to list all of the possibilities (including commercial ones like Lightzone) the list would be very long indeed.

Charlie's Photoshop method appeals because it's free.

Michael
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=174647\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Michael,

I don't disagree with any of what you wrote above. I also acknowledged in my original post that Charlie's contribution is bound to be useful to those who don't want to buy LightZone (i.e., it's free). My only point was that this isn't a "unique" method, something that both your reply and the others to this thread confirm. Part of the problem with the word "unique" here, is that it contributes to the impression that Photoshop is the only way to achieve a lot of things.

The reason for that impression is clear: for professional photographers and editors, Photoshop is the industry standard with the greatest set of capabilities. This is what you use (in addition to Lightroom), so it makes sense that you and others write about it. But neither the fact that Photoshop is the industry standard, nor the fact that it has the greatest range of tools, necessarily makes it the best choice for amateurs, who are more cost-sensitive and who are perhaps better served by programs with fewer capabilities, but which are more intuitive.

Is some of this sour grapes over the price of Photoshop? Undoubtedly. Although, to be honest, I find that I am able to accomplish everything I want or need to do with the tools currently available to be, and I firmly believe that it would take me longer to achieve the same results in Photoshop.

I am equally sure that you are tired of posts like this   so I'll stop now.

Again, I wasn't trying to take anything away from Charlie's contribution per se.

Best regards,
Adam
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 09:36:48 AM by amcananey » Logged
01af
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2008, 09:25:44 AM »
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Adam,

this technique, in principle, is not new indeed. Bruce Fraser used to say, 'let the image edit itself,' and with regard to masks, Katrin Eismann says, 'let the image create the mask.' This works not only with tones as in Charles' article but also with hues, saturation levels, or gradients or combinations thereof.

That said, Charles' article sure is a very good primer, and his particular method is useful to know. I enjoyed reading it. It definitely adds an arrow to my quiver, even though I was aware of the theory before.

-- Olaf
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 09:26:14 AM by 01af » Logged
Jack Flesher
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2008, 09:23:29 PM »
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Charlie's Photoshop method appeals because it's free.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=174647\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

And it's also non-destructive...
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bernie west
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2008, 11:13:44 PM »
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Charlie's Photoshop method appeals because it's free.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=174647\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hang on, but photoshop isn't free.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2008, 08:28:39 AM »
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My only point was that this isn't a "unique" method...
Cramer's fine tutorial combines three basic and key techniques: locking down curve points, applying curves to a rough selection, and fine-tuning a mask with painting. While many tutorials have addressed each individually, this is the first one I have come across that combines the three. Perhaps that's how "unique" got in the title, and why many unfamiliar with one of the three techniques will find it "unique". But after a few years of PS editing, these have become second nature to me and I don't find the tutorial "unique". Given the number of PS users out there, it is almost always dangerous to call any PS technique "unique".

For the examples cited in the tutorial, I would do the following:

- make a rough selection as described

- use Color Range for a finer selection within the rough selection (You can add/delete selecions in Color Range just by clicking. The Fuzziness slider lets you preview the selection, and the selection is based on "partial pixel" which is better than feathering. It is also easy to redo from scratch.)

- paint in Quick Mask to fine tune the final selection

- apply curves (or any other adjustment layer tool) to the mask

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Part of the problem with the word "unique" here, is that it contributes to the impression that Photoshop is the only way to achieve a lot of things.
Like it or not, PS is the 800 pound gorilla that many have learned to love and hate, just like M$.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2008, 09:03:53 AM by Chris_T » Logged
Jack Flesher
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2008, 12:07:42 PM »
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Hang on, but photoshop isn't free.
~~~ AND ~~~
Part of the problem with the word "unique" here, is that it contributes to the impression that Photoshop is the only way to achieve a lot of things.

It sure isn't in both cases...  But whether you like it or not, it IS the defacto "standard" Image Editor for people that have been doing any serious digital photo editing for more than say the last four years...

Cheers,
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 12:09:27 PM by Jack Flesher » Logged

alainbriot
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 12:55:57 PM »
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I use Lightzone also but taking a photograph from Photoshop to Lightzone then back to Photoshop just to do a tone modification to a selected area of the image is just disproportionally time consuming.  

I much prefer to do everything in Photoshop.  And, as Jack pointed out, Photoshop is non destructive when layers are used, which is the approach used by Charlie.  Charlie's technique is very elegant.  Plus it's quick and simple once you get used to doing it regularly.
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2008, 07:20:08 AM »
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The issues I've come across using Color Range and Blend If is the weird tonal transitions that pop up that resemble posterization in texture and detail like in foliage, rocks and skintones that can't be seen viewed at say 50% zoom. You won't see these artifacts in small prints but it will show up like acne in poster sized enlargements. I don't trust the fuzziness slider in showing what tones are actually selected.

I use both techniques quite often but I make sure I zoom in on the detail to see if there are any hot spots.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2008, 09:15:03 AM »
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The issues I've come across using Color Range and Blend If is the weird tonal transitions that pop up that resemble posterization in texture and detail like in foliage, rocks and skintones that can't be seen viewed at say 50% zoom. You won't see these artifacts in small prints but it will show up like acne in poster sized enlargements. I don't trust the fuzziness slider in showing what tones are actually selected.

I use both techniques quite often but I make sure I zoom in on the detail to see if there are any hot spots.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=175235\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Not sure what you meant by "the weird tonal transitions that pop up that resemble posterization in texture and detail". But do agree that Color Range's selection preview is an approximation, similar to the marching ants in other selection tools. If a selection is critical, zooming in and fine-tuning is a must. I often do so in Quick Mask.

Regarding Blend If, do you separate a slider pair for a better transition? I find that is essential to prevent abrupt changes.
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Charles Cramer
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2008, 12:11:03 PM »
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Color Range has two BIG problems...  it creates a hard-edged selection, and usually things are only partially selected.  

First,  even with fuzziness and gaussian blurs applied, it's what I call a "hard-edged" selection.

Imagine a blue sky behind a dark mountain.  If you select the sky with color range, you'll still have the problem of making sure ALL the sky was selected, and NONE of the mountains.  This might work in a small print, or with a small change to the sky.  But, in a big print (or with a big change), you'll see artifacts where your mask did not exactly fit.  (And it rarely does.)

(If you want to change a blue sky,  try a Selective Color adjustment instead, or a tonal selection!  Select the sky AND some mountain, lock down the mountain, and have your way with the sky.  Best to put the curve into luminosity mode to avoid weird color changes).

Second,  color range usually always gives "partial" selection of areas...

Image a bunch of leaves against a darker area.  You select the leaves with color range, using all the right techniques (using the "plus" dropper with multiple clicks, previewing with different selection previews, etc.)  If you then examine the mask closely, you'll see areas of the leaves that are not fully selected (usually darker or lighter parts are not included in the mask).  If you then use a curve to darken your selection, only the selected parts of the leaves will change.  It could be you bring down the lighter parts, and they then match the unchanged darker parts, resulting in...tonal constipation!  (The results that tlooknbill described).  

Using "tonal selections",  I (fortunately) rarely have to use color range.   But when I do,  I find it's helpful to run several filters on the resulting (usually crappy-looking) mask.  With the mask selected, I use Filter:Other:Maximum at a radius of one.  This helps even out the partially-selected areas.  Then you need to smooth it a little with Filter:Blur:Gaussian blur, with a radius of 1-2.  

But why go to all this trouble?  If there's a tonal distinction between the areas,  try my technique.  Like I said, sometimes it doesn't work at all. But you can learn where it will be effective, and it's quick and is artifact-free.   Life without hard-edges masks is so much more productive.

By the way,  I do like the idea of using the blend if sliders to control the tonal selections, too.  

Charlie Cramer
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2008, 06:25:19 PM »
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Not sure what you meant by "the weird tonal transitions that pop up that resemble posterization in texture and detail". But do agree that Color Range's selection preview is an approximation, similar to the marching ants in other selection tools. If a selection is critical, zooming in and fine-tuning is a must. I often do so in Quick Mask.

Regarding Blend If, do you separate a slider pair for a better transition? I find that is essential to prevent abrupt changes.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=175258\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Yes I separate the slider pair, but the tonal roll off sometimes is a bit wide requiring including other tonal regions not intended. This crops up when blending dark and light exposures of the same scene that has a bright sky behind a tree where you want to retain the highlites in the leaves that happen to be on the same tonal scale as the blue in the sky. You want the deeper blue sky but still keep the tree highlites.

This is where Charles technique would come in handy. Rough selection of the tree's highlites instead selecting entire edge of the tree against the sky makes for a quicker edit IMO. I never saw that LL tutorial until now, but it so simple which probably makes it so forgetable. Sometimes the answers to complex tasks requires this type of simplicity. I just wish I'ld thought of it.
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tived
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« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2008, 08:33:58 PM »
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can someone please explain this to me

"With this curve open, if you “drag” in the image (holding the mouse down), you’ll see a little circle that shows where these tones are on the curve."

is this the same as (PC: CTRL+click) on the image with the curve oppen....though reading it, it must be something I have missed in class :-)

thanks

Henrik
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bernie west
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« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2008, 11:08:16 PM »
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can someone please explain this to me

"With this curve open, if you “drag” in the image (holding the mouse down), you’ll see a little circle that shows where these tones are on the curve."
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=175367\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Put your cursor in the image, left-click (and hold) and move your cursor around the image.  You will see a point on the curve which moves up and down the curve depending on where you are currently clicking your mouse.  If you want to create a point on the curve at any stage: ctr+click.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2008, 11:54:16 AM »
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Since we're on the subject of Photoshop tips, I've been wanting to ask if there is a way to have lock down points within the curve dialog box at every grid cross point along the straight curve diagonal with a simple keyboard/mouse click combo. You know so you don't have to manually click at every cross point.

I remember long ago maybe as far back as PS 4 there was such a combo or maybe I mistakened it for something else.
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2008, 02:18:43 PM »
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Since we're on the subject of Photoshop tips, I've been wanting to ask if there is a way to have lock down points within the curve dialog box at every grid cross point along the straight curve diagonal with a simple keyboard/mouse click combo. You know so you don't have to manually click at every cross point.

I remember long ago maybe as far back as PS 4 there was such a combo or maybe I mistakened it for something else.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=175474\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Create one and then save it as a preset
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2008, 12:02:02 AM »
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Create one and then save it as a preset
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=175501\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I was looking for a more elegant way, but that works as well.

Thanks for the tip.
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