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  1. Isolating Your Subject
  2. Applying Camera Raw Filter Edits
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Applying Camera Raw Filter Edits

Applying Camera Raw Filter Edits

Once you’re ready to make some changes, you can use ACR (within the filter environment) exactly as you do in regular ACR and Lightroom workflows. For this layer, I made a quick change to warm up the White Balance, then immediately jumped to the HSL panel, because I needed to change a specific range of hues (remember the original raw photo had already been processed inside the standard ACR workflow).

To start, I used the Hue tab and its manual sliders to shift the Reds towards the magenta end of the spectrum (less orange), while shifting the Oranges away from yellow. Next, I moved to the Saturation tab. Initially, I tried boosting the Reds and Oranges independent of the other, but ultimately decided the best look was achieved by increasing both the Reds and Oranges by a modest amount, until the flower took on the appearance I was originally intending.

Finally, I opened the Luminance panel and boosted the Reds and Oranges values just slightly, to brighten the details in the flower and avoid any potential color bands that may have been created by the Saturation boost. This also tends to make any saturation increases look a bit more natural (when working with shots in nature). These HSL changes can be seen in Figure 4.

Figure 4 Sometimes boosting the Luminance value slightly, for any hue that has a saturation increase, can help to mitigate color bands or other artifacts.

When you’ve got the look you want for your first layer, click the OK button at the bottom right of the ACR window. This will apply the changes to your layer in Photoshop CC. Obviously it helps to view your changes in the context of the larger photograph, as we see in Figure 5. Notice once again all the transparent pixels in the layer thumbnail. This lets us know we can modify all the rest of the pixels in a new layer, without impacting the flower.

Figure 5 The results of an HSL adjustment within the Camera Raw Filter show an improvement in overall color vibrance.

Next, we’ll zoom out a bit and focus on the rest of the shot. Specifically, we’re going to “green up” the leaves floating on the water, and use the new Radial filter to really draw the eye into the flower area we’ve been looking at so far. First, we need to duplicate the Background again and convert that to a Smart Filter, making sure it is placed beneath our previous layer, so that changes made in this second layer (in the flower area) do not “sit atop” the changes made to the flower (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Make sure your transparent layer with changes to small areas sits atop any filter layer with more global changes.

Again we can open the Camera Raw Filter with our newly created layer active. Make sure the ACR preview is panned and zoomed to the correct level so that you can see all the relevant pixel regions you want to work with in this step. Once again, I started with the HSL panel, shifting the Yellows toward green, and the Greens slightly (away from yellow and) towards the blue end of the spectrum. No changes in Saturation or Luminance were required in these same areas. The Hue tweaks are shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7 The HSL panel is very useful for global changes as well.

The final step I needed to make was to create a sort of vignette effect, darkening the entire area behind the flower, while leaving the most important foreground details relatively bright. The easiest way to do this in Photoshop CC is with the new Radial Filter, available only in ACR 8. This is a far more precise way to create a subtle “spotlight effect,” as compared to the Post Crop Vignette or other methods.

Click the rightmost icon in the ACR Toolbar (top), or press the letter J to access the Radial Filter and its options. Most of the available parameters for changing the colors, tones, and details in your Radial Filter region can be seen in Figure 8.

Figure 8 The new Radial Filter offers the same parameters for improving the look of your image, as the Graduated Filter and the Adjustment Brush.

You’ll notice the cursor icon changes to a crosshair when you activate this tool. To start the process, move the crosshair to your target area, then click and drag until you have an oval or circle about the size of the area you’re trying to modify (or omit from modification). You can now use the small square handles on the Radial Filter Overlay to change its shape, and use the center “pin” to drag the entire Overlay into position over your subject.

Initially, this Overlay will affect everything outside its boundary (the default parameter change is an increased Exposure value of 1.00—this makes everything outside the radial area brighter). However, you can change this using the Inside and Outside options at the bottom of the Radial Filter controls, should you need to shift the focus inside the bounds of your radial area. Here the only change I needed to make before modifying the appearance of the shot was to reduce the default Feather value of 100 (the most diffuse setting), so the spotlighting affect I was going for was more pronounced. This setup is shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9 Be sure to set up the Inside / Outside parameter first, and adjust your Feather value unless you want the boundary between the affected and unaffected area to be very diffuse.

Next, I scrolled back to the top of the panel controls and switched the Exposure from +1.00 to -1.00 to see if that was sufficient enough to really focus one’s eye on the flower area. In fact, it ended up being a little too dark, so I scaled it back a few points. Next, I reduced the Clarity slightly to make areas outside the flower region appear slightly softer; this also aids the eye in focusing on the correct area in a photo. Finally, to avoid any potentially shadow clipping, I boosted the Shadows value by a modest amount. The settings and resulting look are shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10 Use the various tone-mapping, color, and detail settings in the Radial Filter to hone the look of specific regions in the photograph.

Once again, when you’re finished with the Radial Filter (or whichever settings you’ve chosen to work with for a new layer), just click OK to apply those settings to your Smart Filter layer in Photoshop CC. The Final look of the shot, along with an unaltered version of the image, is shown for comparison in Figure 11.

Figure 11 The before (on the left) and after (on the right) in the Camera Raw Filter workflow described earlier.

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