Preserving Memories, One Frame at a Time

March 30th, 2007

Color Correction Part 3 – Neutral Gray


Last week’s correction wasn’t bad, but it was still too pink. I hadn’t used the middle eyedropper. Neutral gray can be the hardest part of the photo to identify, yet it has the largest affect on color cast. Is there a trick to help find it? Yes! It is a variation on using threshold.

Open your photo and create a new layer. Go to the edit menu and choose fill. From the dialog box, choose 50% Gray. Now change the blend mode to Difference. Create a new adjustment layer and choose Threshold. Drag the slider left until the photo turns white. This time, the first areas to appear will be your midtones. The adjustment layers can now be dragged to the trashcan. Open your curves adjustment layer and use the center eyedropper on the area indicated.

This works most of the time, but some photos just don’t have a neutral color. Then it’s back to guesswork.

March 23rd, 2007

Color Correction Part 2 – Using Threshold

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Using Curves for color correction as I described it still took some guesswork. Exactly where is the darkest or lightest area? Do I just keep clicking until I find what works? Well, I’m sure you know, I found another way Photoshop takes away the guesswork. It’s called Threshold. This photo is 25 yrs. old and the color is pretty bad. I know the baby’s dress was pale green and Mom’s blouse a pale pink. Where do I find white?

At the bottom of the Layer palette is a circle half black and half white. This is the icon for “new fill or adjustment layer.” Click the circle and choose Threshold. Your photo will change and a dialog box will come up to look something like this.


Push the slider all the way to the left. Your picture will turn completely white. As you gradually slide to the right, the first area to show up will be your darkest part of the photo. Make a mental note of this area. Now do the reverse. Pushing the slider all the way to the right will turn your photo completely black. The first areas to show up are your lightest. For my photo here, it turned out to be the flash reflection an the top of baby’s shoulder.

Cancel Threshold and open a new curves layer. You can now find your black and white points with total confidence!

March 16th, 2007


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Last weekend, Byron and I went to a Civil War re-enactment. Many of the participants will be at another one elsewhere next weekend. Byron decided to show them what he could do. He did some selective focus to imitate camera lenses of the period, sometimes added a frame around a portrait, but the most used technique was to turn the shot into a sepia duotone effect.

This is one way to try. Open your photo in RGB mode. The easiest thing is to sample a sepia photo you like. Otherwise, use Color Picker to find the color you want. Make your foreground color patch this color. On the layers palette, press the Create a New Layer icon. Press Alt-Backspace (Option-Delete on a Mac) to fill the new layer with the color you have chosen. Change the blend mode to Color. You can also try a blue color to mimic cyanotypes. This is the time to have fun experimenting. Try a variety of colors. Here are a few I tried.


March 9th, 2007

Fixing Underexposed Photos

A couple of years ago, we took a “once in a lifetime” trip to the northeastern states. We toured New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Maryland photographing carousels (my love) and lighthouses (Byron’s passion.) Since I hadn’t changed over to digital, it wasn’t until I got my film back weeks later that I realized my flash wasn’t working as I expected. In fact, at times it hadn’t worked at all! I was totally disappointed in my photos. Using brightness, contrast, even curves didn’t help. Then I discovered this nifty little trick.

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Press Control-J to duplicate the background layer. On the layers palette, change the blend mode from Normal to Screen. If it is still too dark, duplicate the Screen layer. Do this until the exposure looks right. Oops! Too much correction? Lower the opacity. That was easy! Overexposed? Try the same, except instead of Screen, use Multiply. You’ll love the results.


For the finished photo, I added a little more exposure and used the color correction with curves I wrote about in an earlier post. Now I can enjoy this antique carousel chariot instead of throwing the photo in the trash!

March 2nd, 2007

Autocrop and Straighten

I recently got interested in scrapbooking. (OK, I’m a little slow keeping up with craft fads.) One reason I hesitated was because the thought of cutting my pictures horrified me. But my photos in albums are fading or changing color as you saw in an earlier post. How can I save and preserve them? I could always scan them into Photoshop, restore them, then reprint. I could feel better cutting a re-print anyway. But the thought of all those scans is so intimidating.

Good news! There’s even a (lazy) way to let Photoshop help with this too! I can load my scanner with as many photos as I can fit at once. They don’t even need to be lined up. Hit scan and let Photoshop do the rest.


When you scan, they all appear in Photoshop as one document. Go to File, Automate, Crop and Straighten photos. Photoshop will locate edges, crop the photos and put each into its own file. You just need to re-name and save. You will still have tons of photos to retouch, but they are all saved on your computer until you are ready to make that beautiful scrapbook.

*Note: For greater safety, copy the files onto a CD. We’ve all had computer problems and you want your precious photos to be around for a long, long time.