Photoshop guru Martin Evening sorts out your photo-editing and post-processing problems. Here he discusses using contrast to effectively lift shadows.

I like this classic composition from Carla Maue. Note how the stone wall leads the eye in from the left and meanders through the valley, with the flow continued by a line of trees stretching further into the distance. Obviously it was necessary to remove the sensor marks that can be seen here. However, I also needed to lighten the foreground without overexposing the sky.

Carla Maue-before


This is where graduated filter adjustments come into use. Most landscape images will benefit from these because, while our eyes interpret a scene by compensating for the difference in brightness between the ground and the sky, the camera records everything as it is. A soft-edged darkening vignette can help balance out this difference without it appearing unnatural.

Carla Maue-after


1. Camera Raw spotting

Step1-raw spottingI began by lightening the image, but I also noticed that the sensor was quite dirty and there were a couple of hairs that needed removing. To do this, I selected the Spot Removal tool, then clicked and dragged to remove the hairs and just clicked repeatedly to remove the smaller spots.

2. Add a darkening gradient

Step2-darkening gradientNext, I added a graduated filter adjustment to the sky and set the Exposure to -1.00 and the Highlights to -20, which darkened the clouds in the sky. I also adjusted the Temperature and Tint sliders to make the sky a little less magenta and slightly cooler in colour.

3. Add more contrast

Step3-more contrastFinally, I went to the Basic panel where I refined the tone adjustments. I reduced the Highlights to bring out more detail in the clouds and boosted the Shadows slider to bring our more shadow detail. I also fine-tuned the Whites and Blacks sliders to optimise the tone contrast.