Basic Editing

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This book will show you how to edit, develop, and manage your photos with AfterShot Pro book and ebook.

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by Joachim Ziebs | February 2013 | Web Graphics & Video

In this article by Joachim Ziebs, author of AfterShot Pro: Non-destructive photo editing and management , we will perform some basic editing:

  • Basic adjustments

  • Sharpening

  • Cropping

  • Tonal adjustments

  • Conversion to black and white

  • Straightening

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

AfterShot Pro has an internal queue of tools that will be used once we are ready to develop the photos. The order in which we use the tools to manipulate the RAW image files does not interfere with this queue. Nor does it make a difference with which tool you start your work.

Just click on the File System tab in AfterShot Pro and navigate to one of your image folders. The thumbnail panel will then display all the images contained in the selected folder. Double-click on one of your photos and start working on your image.

To start with editing I've selected a photo of one of my older models of trusty cameras. Here is the photo without any post processing.

Pretty boring, right? So let's work on it.

Basic adjustments

Basic editing starts with the Basic Adjustments tool on the Standard tab. Here we will find all the controls for a quick edit. In case we are not satisfied with the results, we can always use the more detailed tools on the other tabs. However, for most images the Basic Adjustments tools will work nicely.

The following two tools can make editing images a lot easier:

  • AutoLevel: The AutoLevel tool will automatically adjust the black and white points of your image in a way that a fixed percent of the image will be pure black and pure white. You can control the tool with the two edit fields as shown in the preceding screenshot. The left-hand side field sets the percentage of the image to be pure black and the right-hand side field sets the percentage of the image to be pure white.

    Using 0,010 for both fields is a sensible starting point for editing. Using a higher percentage for the pure white will usually create unnecessary blown highlights and I can hardly imagine that anyone would want that.

  • Perfectly Clear: The Perfectly Clear tool claims to automatically lighten your images optimally while at the same time maintaining true color and not introducing any clipping. With the Tint Max and Tint Min settings, it will also remove tints and improve contrast and sharpness. The Tint Off setting will lighten the image optimally while keeping the original colors.

    I've never been a fan of these tools because I like to have the colors as natural as possible, but perhaps it is just the right tool for your images.

    A word of warning, though. A lot of plugins for AfterShot Pro require you to turn off both of these tools to work properly. So if you experience strange behavior while using a plugin, check if the Perfectly Clear and AutoLevel tools are turned on. If they are, turn them off and see if the plugins now work correctly.

     

White Balance is the next tool in our basic editing workflow. We have the choice of As Shot, Custom Kelvin, Click White, and several other presets. Whatever we select, we can fine tune the image by either using the Temp slider by simply dragging it towards the right-hand side or the left-hand side or by entering a value directly into the input field. Having said that, make sure that when you use the Click White tool you click on an area of the image that has a neutral gray tone. Do not click on pure blacks or pure whites because that would set off the white balance totally. In the case of our example photo, the white balance looks good as it is.

Let's continue editing the photo. We will discuss the other tools when need arises.

Sharpening

The Sharpening tool of AfterShot Pro is below standard. Nevertheless, you should know how it works.

To turn on the Sharpening tool, simply tick the checkbox. You can change the amount of sharpening with the Amount slider and the sensitivity with the Sensitivity slider. Make sure that you use this tool with a 100% magnification view.

Of course, you can also use the Sharpening slider of the Basic Adjustments tool. It corresponds directly to the Amount slider of the Sharpening tool.

The Amount slider adjusts the overall sharpness of your image while the Sensitivity slider limits the portions of the image that are sharpened. The higher the amount, the sharper the image becomes. Take care though, because you can over-sharpen your image easily if you drag the slider too far. Sensitivity is just the opposite. The higher the sensitivity, the less of your image is affected by the unsharp mask filter that AfterShot Pro internally uses. So, you might need to raise the sensitivity when too much noise or other distractions become visible by raising the amount.

The following screenshot shows a 100% crop after setting the Amount property to 120 and the Sensitivity property to 10. For comparison, only the right-hand side of the image is sharpened. The left-hand side of the image is straight out of the camera without any adjustments. We can use Layers for selective sharpening like this. As you can clearly see, it is easy to oversharpen if you are not careful. Also, artifacts appear quite quickly by using this tool.

Cropping

If you moved from slides to digital, like me, there might be good news for you. Remember with those 35 mm slides, when you didn't get the exact frame you wanted, you were in for a fiddling session with small masks or tape later. With digital images, correction of the frame is so much easier. Simply open the Cropping tool in AfterShot Pro.

You have several choices to get the crop you want. For a quick crop, simply select one of the presets in the combobox, like 1.50 | 2:3 | 4x6 | 35mm as shown in the preceding screenshot. Then adjust the crop box by dragging the corners or the sides of the box. Both corners and sides will light up in red upon being dragged.

As you can see, the Cropping tool features the Rule of Thirds indicators that makes cropping a breeze.

In case there is no preset to your liking, simply select Custom. You can then draw your own selection box by clicking on the image and dragging the cursor over it.

Also, you can enter a fixed Aspect or fixed Pixels in the dialog box. The arrow icon will change the box from portrait to landscape and vice versa. The lock icon is a bit tricky. As long as you choose Aspect, it is closed, thus giving you a locked aspect ratio for cropping. When you click on the icon, it changes to an open lock and at the same time the Aspect property switches to the Pixels property. Now you can crop to any size you like without having to care about a fixed aspect ratio. You can, however click on the lock again, thus closing it, and fix the selected pixel ratio. If you have entered your own settings, click on the plus icon to save these settings for later image edits. Once you are happy with your frame simply click on Done to close the dialog box and to complete the cropping.

Aftershot Pro: Non-destructive photo editing and management This book will show you how to edit, develop, and manage your photos with AfterShot Pro book and ebook.
Published: December 2012
eBook Price: £8.99
Book Price: £14.99
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Colors

Let's face it, the colors of any RAW image needs postprocessing to make the image really shine. Luckily AfterShot Pro gives us great tools to accomplish this.

Let's open the Color tab to use the Curves tool to enhance the colors of our photo:

The controls are simple. Their functions are as follows:

  • On the left-hand side of the tool are black and white arrows. These set the input black and white point of your image. If you drag these arrows down, it will darken the image. Dragging them up will lighten the image.

  • At the bottom of the tool are the two arrows for the output white and black points. Dragging the black arrow towards the right-hand side will deepen the shadows. Dragging the white arrow towards the left-hand side will brighten the image. Be careful when you use these arrows as you might lose details in the shadows or in the highlights when you drag too far. The gray arrow specifies the gray point of the image. Drag it to the left-hand side to darken the image and to the right-hand side to lighten it.

What we want to do now is simply to darken the dark parts of the image and lighten the light parts of the image. This will give us good colors and contrast. Simply click on the Curves tool to set and drag points to adjust the curves. We can set any number of points, but we are going for the classic S-curve as shown in the following screenshot:

As you can see, the histogram shows the changes we've applied. If you prefer to see the histogram of the original image without the application of the tool, simply change the combobox on the right-hand side from After to Before.

Right now we edited all RGB channels together. In case you want to edit only a single channel with the Curves tool, select the RGB (Red, Green, or Blue) channel from the combobox at the top of the tool.

Sometimes one can get carried away when using the Curves tool. You can use the two backwards pointing arrows to reset the curves back to their original values if that happens to you. The right-hand side arrow will only revert the current channel (for example, the red one) and will keep changes you've made to the others, while the left-hand side arrow will set back all channels giving you a chance for a fresh start.

Let's consider an example. The following screenshot shows a Curve tool where I was a bit carried away:

You can clearly see the curve for RGB (in white), Red (in red), Green (in green) and Blue (in blue). I could of course use the left-hand side arrow icon for a complete fresh start on all curves. However, I only dislike the RGB curve, so I only want to reset this one and keep the others. To achieve this, we select the RGB curve in the selection box on top of the tool and then click on the arrow icon on the right-hand side. Voila! Three curves kept, one reset as shown in the following screenshot:

You can clearly see that only the RGB curve is now a straight line again while the rest of the curves are as curvy as before.

The following screenshot shows our image so far: sharpened, cropped, and curves adjusted. As before, the left-hand side is the unadjusted straight out of camera side while the right-hand side is the one with all the editing done. It is needless to say that the curves from the last example were not used to achieve this result. You can clearly see the difference between the two sides. The right-hand side has much crisper contrast and colors.

Black and white

The Agfa box looks pretty battered. I'm sure that it will never shoot another photo. I'm also sure that the image I took of it would look even better in black and white. So let's open the Black and White Plugin tool and go ahead:

As you can see, this tool is rather simple. You enable it with a tick and select a channel mixer preset from the combobox. While you hover over the different presets with your mouse pointer, the image area will show a preview so that you can compare different results easily. Here we have used the Luminance preset.

For best results you might wish to turn off the Curves tool before converting to black and white. Then after the conversion turn it on again and make adjustments if necessary.

As you have probably already noticed, you can create black and white images that retain one or two colors with the Black and White Plugin tool. In AfterShot Pro this is as easy as enabling First Spot Color and/or Second Spot Color. You can then use the Hue slider or the color picker to select the color to retain for either one/both of the spot colors. The Fuzziness slider adjusts how exact the color you selected and the colors of your image have to match to be kept.

Straightening

If you've ever photographed the horizon, you'll have come across something similar to the following photograph. In the image with just the right exposure, just the right clouds, and so on, you'll notice that either your main subject or the horizon is not straight. Here is one of my photos where this has happened:

I took care of the horizon and therefore tilted the subject, the lonely bank at the sea. Luckily, we can straighten that out with AfterShot Pro.

There are actually two ways to do this. First, there is the Straighten slider in the Basic Adjustments tool. This is nice and works quite well when you have either a very good eye or a very precise hand. In most cases it is better to use the second tool, the Straightening tool.

Just activate it and hover your mouse pointer on the image to see that the mouse pointer changes. Now click on the image and drag the pointer along. You'll notice that you'll draw a line. Keep this straight on the horizon or your subject. As seen in the following screenshot, the pointer has been placed right at the top of the bench:

The second you release the mouse button, the image will be rotated according to the drawn line.

You can see the angle used for rotation next to the Straighten slider of the Basic Adjustments tool. Now all that is left to do is cropping the image, because no one wants to see the gray areas introduced by the rotation.

The following photograph shows the desired result. The bench is now straight:

Summary

In this article you learned how to sharpen, crop, and straighten your images. Also you now know how to apply tonal corrections as well as turn images to black and white.

Resources for Article :


Further resources on this subject:


Aftershot Pro: Non-destructive photo editing and management This book will show you how to edit, develop, and manage your photos with AfterShot Pro book and ebook.
Published: December 2012
eBook Price: £8.99
Book Price: £14.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Joachim Ziebs

Joachim Ziebs teaches Computer Science, English, and History at a German abendrealschule (a night school). When he was fifteen, he was given an old camera. He was hooked on photography immediately and was seldom seen without his camera. Later he bought his first computer, a Commodore C64, and another passion ensued.

Strangely, however, the author decided to study English, History, and Philosophy after he finished school. After graduating with an MA, he found work as a Computer and Network Administrator and Software Trainer with a small start-up software company, where his passion for teaching awakened.

Following this calling, he quit his job to become a teacher.

This is his first book.

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