Masking the Facts
TipSquirrel once again welcomes award winning restorationist Janine Smith.
Here, in my third and final homage to Calculations, I revisit the theme that first led to my epiphany. In his brilliant video on masking while guest blogging on Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider blog, on July 8, Deke McClelland made Calculations understandable. I finally got it! Since this revelation, I’ve been experimenting with Calculations in many forms, to see which, if any, can be used to advantage in my photo restoration work flow, and have come up with three areas in which I’ll use, or at least attempt, quite often. The previous two weeks I’ve gone over the possibility of Calculations as an analysis tool and as a blending tool. Today, I offer to you Calculations as a masking tool.
Obviously, not every photo will be a good candidate for this procedure, but there are many incidences where I, personally, can see it coming in very handy! For the example photo I wanted to find something that would show one of the worst offenders in the world of masking, hair. While this photo isn’t an antique by any means, it is vintage. It’s actually of the author when she was young. Believe me, it’s vintage. It’s also a pretty badly taken photo, and for that you have my permission to blame the authors brother.
This method is pretty straight forward, and very easy. We’ll start by running the photo through Calculations (Image > Calculations…). I used the Red channel, and the Blue channel, but also tried the green channel for the sake of thoroughness. You’ll most often find the lightest and darkest channels work the best but I’d hate to miss the opportunity to try every option ever made, just to see if maybe…Do yourself a big favor and go through every blending mode. There’s no way you can say “Multiply will always work well”. The tones will always be different, so it just stands to reason that different blending modes will effect it differently. Also, always check the “Invert” check boxes.
You may find an instance when the best contrast will be present when they aren’t checked, I’ll never say never, but I haven’t found that instance, yet. The best contrast in this particular example occurred with the Red and Blue channels, both inverted, and the blend mode set to Subtract at 100% Opacity.
I knew in this instance that I would have a problem before too long with the contrast of the background and the shirt (which was my favorite, by the way – so 80’s!), so while it was still clearly defined I went ahead and filled in the area with white. We are working on the Alpha Channel made by the Calculations step, remember, so at this point everything is black and white and shades of gray (or grey. Generally, gray is a “color”, grey is a “colour”. Use which ever you like…).
We’ll now run it through Levels by going to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Do NOT use the Adjustments panel on this step! It won’t work. The object here is to bring the blacks and the whites up as high as you can without blowing out and losing the details you want to keep, in this case the hair. I was able to bring the whites up pretty high in this step, but needed to back off the blacks somewhat.
To help things along, I filled in some of the areas around the head with black while there was still some definition.
Next, I ran it through Levels a second time (Image > Adjustments > Levels). Again, I mainly focused on the whites by bring the highlights slider over to the left. The remaining gray areas were distinct enough that I could go over them with black. The edges of the hair was the part I was concerned about.
From there it was easy to fill in a few more areas to complete the mask.
And voila! Out went the dark trees in the background and suddenly I was transported to a night in Paris with the Eiffel Tower all lit up behind me! Then I woke up…
Here’s another quick example, sans screenshots. This shot of the Cutty Sark was just run through Calculations and levels. Just look at the definition of the rigging!
Is Calculations the answer to World peace? Will it cure horrible diseases? Is it the answer to everything? Of course not! But if you experiment with it, play around with the various settings, at least try it, it could actually end up being a key component in your restoration toolkit!
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