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Calculations as a Channel Blender! Huh! Who knew? Probably a lot of people, but it’s pretty new to me! Suffice it to say I’m not one of those who gets a new toy and rushes off to write tutorials to spread the word before I’m pretty darn sure I know what I’m talking about. That’s the quickest way to wind up looking like a mondo-dork! I’ll also admit I have a lot (make that a LOT) to learn about Calculations, but I’m letting my excitement get the best of me and am going ahead with spreading the word! Whether or not I’m eventually sorry for it remains to be seen, but please do keep in mind that a “learning Calculations in progress” disclaimer comes with these articles!


 One of the basic steps when starting a photo restoration is to cycle through the red (Cmd / Ctrl +3), green (Cmd / Ctrl +4) and blue (Cmd / Ctrl +5) channels to see if the majority of the damage lies in any given channel and if you can use the best channel as the basis of your restoration. This is supposing, of course, that your photo has been scanned in color (I know it has, I trust you), and you’re working in RGB color mode – although for photo restoration, there’s no reason for you to not be working in RGB…unless you’re working in Lab…but I’m digressing. I confess, I very rarely strip my restorations down to one channel, unless that one channel is just amazingly clear and damage free. Even if I do, I tend to rebuild the color channels using Apply Image because I like the richness of the different tones as compared to the flatness of a single channel. That’s one reason I’m so excited about the ability to blend two channels in Calculations! Sure, there are workarounds that would allow me to do this manually, if you will, but anything that does a superb job and saves time is just that much better!


For an example, I’ll use this photo from 1917 of a group of Merchant Marines having their photos taken during leave in the big city. I know this because one of them was my Grandfather.



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When this photo is broken down to single channels, you can see that the red channel is quite weak,


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The green channel is a bit better,


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and the blue channel is best in terms of darkness, but borders on being “muddy”.


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With Calculations, I take the best two channels, in this case I felt they were the green and the blue channels, and combine them to give me a photo dark enough to retain all the detail and still lighten a bit if need be. Now comes the fun part: playing. The more you play with the various settings, the more you’ll begin to understand the control you’ll have over your image. The first thing I played with, here, is the Blending setting. At first I used Multiply as my Blend Mode, with an Opacity of 100%. It’s much darker and all the details come out, but it’s a bit too dark and still slightly “muddy”.



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So I play with the settings, scrolling through all the blend modes until I decide to try the Overlay Blend mode. I tweak the Opacity, settling finally on 85%. I’ve made a screen shot of both modes to use as a reference so I can look at both settings and compare. I actually do this quite often when I’m using a tool like Calculations. Select Ctrl + C, and press Print Screen on a PC keyboard, then go to the File Menu in Photoshop and select New (or Ctrl + N). When the selection box comes up, just click OK, it will default to your screen size. When the blank layer comes up, simply hit Ctrl + V to paste the image into the new document. It takes literally no time at all, you can reuse that document again and again, just choosing Ctrl + C + Print Screen, then Ctrl + V to grab a new screen shot with every new version you like. When you’ve decided what you like, just delete your screen shots, and done. So, now with my Overlay, 85 % Opacity screenshot, I decide it’s pretty good, but maybe a bit too light. I want a happy medium.



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Even more experimentation, now! Calculations not only lets you blend two channels together, but also gives you the ability to apply a mask using a third channel, or layer, or image! We’re talking endless possibilities, here, seriously! To get my happy medium that’s dark enough to get all the details, light enough to have adequate contrast, and clear enough to strip out most of the cloudy, or “muddy” effect, I used Clor Burn as my blending mode, which gave extremely stark contrast, lowered the Opacity to 75%, then applied a mask using the red channel, in this case, to bring in some of the lighter tones.



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The end result is a very nice, moderate tonality that will be a great starting point to my restoration!


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About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

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