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Our dig­i­tal im­age edit­ing guru, Jon Adams, ex­plains the steps in Photoshop CC for deal­ing with con­trast dif­fer­ences – par­tic­u­larly in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy – and evening out your ex­po­sures.

Get­ting the ‘cor­rect’ ex­po­sure for a shot is a highly sub­jec­tive mat­ter. Af­ter all, some like their shots to be dark and dra­matic, while oth­ers like them bright and open. For most pho­tog­ra­phers, choos­ing what’s ‘right’ de­pends en­tirely on the con­tent of the im­age and the mean­ing they want to con­vey to the viewer. But the con­cept of ex­po­sure is rarely bi­nary in a bright or dark sense – it’s far more nu­anced than that.

When you crit­i­cally as­sess an im­age, you may find that some ar­eas, such as parts of a fore­ground, re­quire lift­ing, while oth­ers, like a pale sky, need ton­ing down. De­pend­ing on the po­si­tion of the sun and the ex­tent of cloud cover, the sky can be 2 or 3 stops brighter than the fore­ground it il­lu­mi­nates. If you make a global ad­just­ment to cor­rect this, you’ll end up with a great sky with the fore­ground thrown into ob­scu­rity, or a well-ex­posed fore­ground with a com­pletely blown-out sky.

So­lu­tions to these con­trast prob­lems can be found in the form of grad­u­ated Neu­tral Den­sity fil­ters placed over the lens at the time of cap­ture, but aside from be­ing time-con­sum­ing to fit and ad­just, these only help if your hori­zon is un­bro­ken across the scene. If a moun­tain or build­ing juts out from the fore­ground and breaks the skyline, a grad will be of lim­ited use, as it’ll darken the pro­trud­ing item which is in need of bright­en­ing.

In Photoshop, a great route to balanc­ing your ex­po­sure comes in the form of the Curves com­mand, and over the page, we re­veal how you can use it to pre­cisely ad­just the bright­ness, con­trast and even the colour of dif­fer­ent parts of a scene to get the ex­act re­sult you’re af­ter.

By ad­just­ing the bright­ness, con­trast and colour in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, this land­scape scene is dra­mat­i­cally im­proved.

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