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Changing and Adjusting Colors

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Almost any photograph can benefit from some simple color or lighting corrections. For example, you might find that a vivid sunset you photographed ends up looking more red than orange, or that an outdoor snapshot is too dark to make out any details. Luckily, with Photoshop Elements, you're never stuck with a roll of bad-looking film. Photoshop Elements provides a surprisingly powerful set of color correction tools, with both manual and automatic adjustments, so you can fine-tune your images as much as you want.

In this chapter, we review Photoshop Elements' color options and when you'll most likely want to use them. I'll also show you how to make sure colors display and print accurately (also known as color management) and how to correct the colors and tones in your images. Along the way, I'll shed some light on why the most obvious color-enhancement options are not always the best choices for improving the color in your image.

About Computers and Color Models

No matter how your images got into the computer, whether from a scanner or a digital camera or copied from a stock art CD-ROM, the version of the image stored in the computer can only approximate the colors of the original scene. A computer, at its core, is only capable of dealing with numbers, so it somehow has to come up with numerical equivalents of the colors perceived by our eyes.

How does your computer come up with a number to represent color? There are several ways to do this, called color models, and one of the most common is the RGB color model. In this model, the color of each pixel is described as combinations of different amounts of the colors red, green, and blue. These colors were chosen because the cells in our eyes that respond to color, the "cones," come in three varieties; some are sensitive to red, some to green, and some to blue. Therefore, the RGB model tries to characterize colors in a way that's similar to the way the human eye works.

Again, the most important thing to remember is that color models, at best, can only approximate the colors in your image. No color model is as sensitive (or as opinionated) as the human eye.

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