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How to save shadows in Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial, we will show you how to use dimming and lightening to save shadows in your shots and emphasize their appearance. As with many things in Adobe Photoshop (and in life), the problem is in the right balance.

Dimming and lightening
The terms Dodge and Burn are used to correct and adjust the brightness level in certain areas of the image. Digital correction techniques are based on the methods used by photographers in the traditional development of pictures: blocking light from the magnifier to get a less exposed (hence brighter) piece of photo paper and using brighter light to darken part of the picture. 

These techniques can be used for any part of the image, both light and dark, but in our lesson we will focus on shadows. Although the technique is similar, midtones and vibrant areas require a separate approach.

1. Rate the picture: what result do you want to achieve?
Balance is the key to the proper use of tools. To get it, you need to have an idea of ​​what the final result should be. Trying to achieve high contrast? Need a realistic look? What areas need to be emphasized? What needs to be done less expressive? 

Your ideal result will probably depend on the type of image being edited and the limitations that may be laid down in the image itself. For example, if you are editing a portrait, you need to remember the quality of skin tones: manipulating shadows can have a negative effect on the shape of the face. Each type of photograph - from landscape to architectural or grocery shooting - has its own capabilities and pitfalls in the correction of shadows. 

If you know what you need to achieve, you can effectively use the available tools and get the look you need.

2. Spend global corrections
This is a snapshot that I will work with. You may notice that the shadows are not sufficiently exposed, and the sky is illuminated.
image
Work with RAWThe first thing you need to start with is to make global corrections across the entire surface of the image. Since I shoot in RAW format, my first step is to process the file in Adobe Camera RAW before opening Photoshop. 

The picture was taken in the evening. He has a partially high-quality light that I want to keep. For this reason, I do not move the shadow slider to the end, although judging by the screenshot, there is still enough room for correction.
image
Pay attention to the histogram in the upper right corner: the graph shows that most of the image information (the top of the graph) is focused on the shadows, but all the sections are correctly maintained, that is, they do not lose information. This is excellent, because I want to get the effect of a cold, damp evening, without losing any details.
Adjust local contrast with Curves
I saved the sky too bright in the RAW module and darkened it a bit, returning the details. The image itself looks a little flat, so local corrections will help us.
image
In Photoshop, the S-shaped curve (in our case, very smooth) enhances the contrast of the image: light pixels become brighter and dark pixels become darker. This emphasizes the sky and water, but also intensifies the shadows again. This is normal, we will later use Dodge and Burn to fix this.
3. Perform local corrections
Next, examine the individual parts of the photo that you want to improve. I mentioned that I want to leave some shadows deep, preserving the mood of this time of day, but there are areas such as water and even parts of trees where you need to lighten the shadows without increasing the overall brightness of the image and without changing the mood.

Save the shadows with Dodge
By duplicating the background (Ctrl + J), I plan to work with the shadows on the trees using the Dodge tool with the Range Shadows and very low Opacity - about 2-5%, returning some shadows to their original view. The principle of the tool is to leave the medium and bright tones intact, while brightening the shadows that you paint with a special bone. 

I always find it wise to make the correction a little stronger than intended, and then reduce the Opacity of the adjustment layer to get the perfect result.
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This is the result of working with Exposure of 5%, and the difference can already be seen in the darkest areas. If necessary, change the Range to Midtones and work with them. 
The difference is barely noticeable. The effect can be achieved by gently painting the same areas several times until you get the desired look.
image
This is how an image with a Dodge layer with 90% opacity looks. Duplicate this layer and work with the Burn tool to add depth and contrast. 
The curve layer helped improve overall contrast, but there were still areas that needed to be emphasized a bit. Using the Burn tool with the Range of Shadows and Exposure of 5%, I will paint over some areas, making them more contrast and deeper.
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Darkening the sky makes it deeper, but may cause excessive color saturationYou can notice the difference in the appearance of the shadows if you hold the brush several times. Bright colors remained intact. This led to a bit of over-saturation and emphasized the radiance around the tree on the left. The opacity of the layer is still 100%, reduce it a bit, getting rid of unwanted effects.

4. Extra touches
Working with shadows and contrast is a great use for Dodge and Dodge, but you can also use them to draw attention to a specific focal point in the picture. I use the Burn tool again with the Range Shadows and paint over the edge of the frame, creating a slight vignetting effect. This will help to direct your eyes towards the bright center of the picture.5. Final corrections
When you are happy with your work, make final adjustments or changes. Excessive saturation can become a problem with lightening and darkening, so a very weak Saturation adjustment layer can come in handy, which will put everything in order.
image
I slightly adjusted the color balance and cropped the image, removing the distracting space between the trees on the right.
findings
The ability to use lightening and dimming is not enough to make a picture perfect, it will always take something more. On the contrary, the most important thing is to know what result you want to get. If you don’t know what you need, then spend eternity correcting and correcting the picture, but you will remain dissatisfied. Choosing a goal before starting work will save you from many problems and will not allow you to do unnecessary things.

Be sure to make global corrections first. Work with RAW if you shot in this format. Play around with shadows and highlights until you get the result you want. To do this, it is not necessary to drag the sliders to the end - remember that the effect affects all the shadows / highlights. The essence of this stage is to correct the general appearance of the image, providing space for lightening and darkening.
When it comes to local corrections, duplicate layers so as not to spoil the corrections that have already been completed, and also focus on one area and method at a time. If you color the entire image, the effect will be applied to all parts of the selected range. Use the zoom and process the small pieces at a time, looking around the whole picture, seeing how the correction looks in context. When you are happy with work in one area, move on to the next.

As soon as you finish with local corrections, go to the final touches, for example, improve the color or temperature, etc. It is important to do this last, as lightening and darkening can make colors unnatural and draw attention to problem areas.
Given all this, how far to go is a matter of taste, but I usually think that the less, the better. In any case, do not limit yourself, because you can always reduce the opacity and make corrections weaker. If you worked for too long and can no longer understand where to cross the line, save the project and come back later with a fresh look. 

Posted by: Marie Gardiner




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