Once you have taken your photograph, I would recommend opening it in Photoshop and prepping it for use in your printed piece or on the web.
If you've made sure to set up proper lighting, use a good camera, and eliminated unwanted highlights, shadows, and reflections, you can now adjust the contrast and white balances. Here's how I like to do it:
- Open your photo in Photoshop
- Unlock your background layer
- Select the drop-down menu: Image > Image Size…
- Notice that your camera takes really large photos! The example here shows my photo is 6 foot by 4 foot. The resolution is 72ppi. I change this to 300ppi. Be sure to unchecked the re-sample image box.
Notice the file size remains at 51.3 MB. This is because as we increased the resolution from 72 to 300, we proportionately decreased the physical file size. This 18MP camera shoots a nice 11"x17" photo that will work well as a background for a 2-page magazine or catalog spread.
- Next, let's adjust the contrast and white balance. Select your layer and apply a Curves adjustment layer.
- Notice the Curves histogram shows a tall wave peak to the right. That shows where the lights in your photo are centralized.
It also shows where the histogram wave ends on the lower right before the edge of the histogram box. This empty area denotes unused tonal range in your photo. To change this, and stretch the tonal range (to use all of it) move the top right anchor point left. This will also lighten your image. If you have a lot of empty space you may be better off re-shooting the photo as too much stretching may posterize your image and produce an undesired result.
You can also darken the darks by moving the opposite anchor point.
- Here's the before and after result:
- It's a small but important adjustment. Notice how the AFTER image has more contrast, depth and saturation of color. It's just a better image overall.
- Now, let's check our work with actual numbers. You should leave some tonal value in your highlights—so it's not washed out to a pure white (which is 0%).
- In the Window drop-down menu choose: Info
With the Info window open, hover your target over the whitest highlight in your photo. The two columns show a before and after of your adjustment layer effects. I look for the end result in my highlights to be in the 2%–5% range. This ensures that a very light tonal value remains in your highlights. You can also see how much the darks were darkened by hovering over them.
- If the results aren't what you want, go back to the adjustment layer and fix them until they are.
- That's it. Nice job!