Correcting Problems Using Photoshop Elements

There are a variety of "problems" that may occur in images, due to camera issues, unavoidable lighting problems, or other problems in the shooting situation. Photoshop has several tools that allow us to correct these problems to create a better image. The first objective should be to use these techniques to get as "true" an image as we can. But they can also be used to create special effects that take us into creating art rather than a representation of reality (or perhaps that is a higher levelof reality). Similar techniques have always been part of photography. Half the art of someone like Ansel Adams was their skill in the darkroom creating dramatic images from the raw negatives. Now we do similar things digitally, and we have a greater range of tools at hand.

1. Getting rid of blemishes, real or camera artifacts. If your camera sensor has gotten dust on it, these may show as spots in an image. You may take a picture of a person with blemishes on their face that you would like to reduce or get rid of. In either of these case, you can use a tool called the healing-brush or spot-healing-brush (the band-aid icon on the tools palette).

In the file lighthouse.jpg, we can see some blemishes in the sky left of the lighthouse and also higher up. These can be seen better if you zoom in on the image (use control-+ to zoom in, control-- to zoom out). We can eliminate these by using the spot-healing brush. This works well since the surrounding area is pretty uniform. Slect the spot healing brush. When you move it onto the image make it larger or smaller with the "]" and "[" keys. You should make it just a bit larger than the spot to remove. Then place it over the spot and click - poof! the spot is gone. Note, this will not work if your brush overlaps an edge with another color -- in that case we need another tool.

We can also use the healing-brush. (Right click on the spot-healing brush tool and select the healing-brush). Find another spot to try this method. With the healing brush select an area near the blemish that looks like what you want to have instead of the spot. Alt-click on this area. Then move the brush to the spot and paint over it by clicking and dragging over the spot (hold the button as you move the mouse). This can be used on a spot near a color transition edge.

2. Clone stamp tool. Another way we can remove unwanted objects is to use the clone stamp (the hand-stamp icon on the tools palette). This is useful if the unwanted object has a varied background that would not look good if we used the healing-brush. In the same lighthouse image there is a sea-gull in front of the rock, below and left of the light house. Zoom in on this area. If we do not want the seagull, we can use the clone stamp. The healing-brushes will not work well because of the varied colors in the rock. Select the clone stamp and make the brush about 1/4 the width of the bird. Find a location just above part of the bird and alt-click on that area. Then move the brush down over the bird and click. A "clone" of the image of the rock from the first click will block out that part of the bird. Do three or four more clones to cover the rest of the bird, and the result should look like a rock with no bird at all.

3. Adjusting light with digital dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening). The names derive from darkroom techniques. Dodging meant using a piece of paper to block the light coming through the negative so as to make a part of the image lighter than the negative would. Burning means exposing a part of the image from the negative longer than normal to burn in more, making it darker.

In P.E. we do this with a fill layer of gray, which has no effect on the image. We use a brush to either lighten the gray, which lightens the image, or to darken it to darken the image. We can test this technique with the image Sheltered Lakes.jpg. Make the dark trees and their reflection lighter, make the water in the foreground lighter.Make the sky darker. Here are the steps.

  1. From the Layer menu select new layer
    1. in the dialog, select overlay from the drop down window
    2. check the box to fill with overlay-neutral color
  2. Select the brush tool with a medium soft-edged brush and sets its opacity to 30%
  3. Set the foreground color to White, set brush mode to lighten.
  4. Paint the area to lighten. To make parts lighter, release mouse button and paint again.
  5. Switch the foreground to black and set brush mode to darken. Paint the areas to darken.

4. Selecting an area to change using selection tools.

Oval selection. Use the file AcadiaDoor.jpg. We want to darken the circular lock near the top right.

  1. Active the Elliptical Marquee tool in the tools palette. If you see a dotted-rectangle icon, right click on it and select the elliptical tool.
  2. Then click and drag an ellipse over the lock. Once you have the size, you can click and drag the oval for position..
  3. Select a tool, perhaps color curves, to darken the shadow area, making the lock appear darker.
  4. Click deselection from the selection menu (or control-D)

a. Rectangular selections can be done in a similar fashion.

We can do a free form selection using the lasso tool (lasso icon). Click and drag to surround an area to select. Then click the overlapping squares icon to make the mode add-to-selection. Continue to outline the desired selection. If you get too much, you can use the subtract from selection mode (next to the add mode). Try this to select the sky in ProblemAreas.jpg, then use color-adjust--hue-saturation to make the sky bluer. Notice that only the selected area is affected.

b. Using the same example, we try the magic wand and quick select tools to make the selection. Magic wand works for selecting areas that are about the same color. Select it and click somehwere in the sky. Quick select works by finding natural edges in the image as you move over the desired area. Try it as well. You can subtract from the selection with this one as well. Finally, try the selection brush (be sure the mode is on selection). With the brush, you paint out the selection. A large brush is good for large areas, a small brush for detail. Again, you can use the add or subtract modes.

c. Here is another example using the Selection Brush. In this example, we use the selection to enhance the colors in only part of the image. Use the file SelectionWithBrush.jpg.

  1. Chooce the Selection Brush tool.
  2. In the palette above the tools choose a soft-edged brush. You can change the size with the right and left bracket keys ("[" and "]").
  3. Paint the area to select. If you are adding to a selection, click the add icon in the palette. If you want to subtract from the selection, click the subtract icon.
  4. Select all of the bird and then enhance its color in some way.