Flight Lessons…Crisp b&w and photoediting in PSP!

Hello everyone! Welcome to today’s Flight Lesson. Today we’ll be focusing only on PSP (Paint Shop Pro). The tools that I use for this tutorial are almost identical in PS, so if you’d like to give it a whirl, please do! I recently had someone ask me how to make a black and white photo nice and crisp, which is how this tutorial came to be. This tutorial will also include a LOT of photo editing! We’ll be going over the finer details of photo editing in later editions, but this will definitely get your feet wet if you’ve never done a lot of photo editing in your program. This is a VERY detailed tutorial, so I hope it isn’t too overwhelming! Just take it a step at a time, or take what you’d like to from it! So, let’s get started! :o)

1. Open your photo, and resize/crop/whatever down to as close to the size that you want as you can get. Every time you resize your photo, it loses quality, so if you resize after your editing it won’t look quite as good as it would if you resized first and then edited. For this example I’m using a very silly photo of Dillon. :o) Here is my entire screen:

2. Now we want to do our regular photo edits, meaning removing noise/sharpening/bringing out the eyes/blurring the background/whatever you want to do. I’ve always found removing noise and sharpening to be a bit tricky in PSP, because it’s very easy to overdo it. Each photo is obviously very different in terms of its needs. I took this photo using my good camera and a good lens, so it doesn’t need much, but I’ll do a little editing anyway since I can’t bring myself not to. :oD

First I’ll remove the noise in the photo. I’m taking the easy route and using the auto noise removal, which sometimes over-does things but it seems to be okay for this one. :o)

Now on to sharpening. I like to use the unsharp mask, located here:

Play around with the settings a bit until you get the look that you want. Don’t worry about the eyes not being sharp enough, we’ll do that next. :o) Here are the settings that I used for this photo:

Now we’ll work on the eyes a touch. Select your lasso tool from the palette, and lasso the color part of the eye (or however you prefer to do them). Change your feather (up at the top) to 1px or so, so that it doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. You can raise or lower this number based on your needs, but I like to stick with 1px for sig editing. Notice that my selection isn’t exactly… round. LOL! That’s okay, it’s really not a big deal, just do the best you can. :o)

Now go back to the unsharp mask, and this time it will adjust only your selection. Again, just play with the settings, but it’s easy to make them look creepy, so be aware of that. :oP You may have to undo this a few times, since you can’t see the whole effect on the photo until you’ve finished, but that’s okay. Just play around until you get the look that you want.

Once you’re done with the eyes, go to selections>select none at the top of the screen to get rid of the little circling ants. Now if you’re happy so far, we’ll make the photo black and white. :o) You can use the auto b&w feature under effects>photo effects>b&w film, but I actually don’t like using that. I’m old school, so I use this way instead:

And then turn the saturation all the way down to -100 to make it b&w:

Now we’re ready to adjust the curves/levels. Since this particular photo is a bit blown out (too light on his face) already, I probably won’t use the curves on this one. I also tend to not use curves on black and white photos, I generally only use it on color photos. Usually, if you use the curves adjustment, you open your adjustment window:

*This part may be a little confusing, but just keep in mind that adjusting the curves is controlling the exposure of the photo. I tend not to use this step for black and white photos.* Make sure the little box (1) says ‘default’ (mine doesn’t here because I’ve already added points on the curves). This makes a straight line. Then add points, and adjust accordingly. Some people like to use 3 points, but I tend to only use 2. You basically want your line to look like an S shape, so you make your first point, and then drag it up slightly. Look at the little preview and you’ll see that the photo gets lighter. (If you use 3 points, make your second point in the middle somewhere) Then add your second point (like in this photo) and drag it down slightly to make the darks darker. See in your preview how you’ve now added contrast to the photo? If I were doing it on this particular photo though, I would probably make my S shape backwards, because the lights are already too light. It’s really all about the exposure of the photo, so just mess with the points until you have the photo the way that you want it. If you hate it, you can always click the little drop down box again and set it back to default to start over (1).

For this photo however, I’ll be using the levels adjustment, which is what I usually use for black and white photos. I find that it’s easier to control the contrast using levels, and the contrast is really important in black and white, since there aren’t any other colors being used (obviously). Making a black and white photo crisp is, again, all about the contrast and controlling the exposure.

Now you’ll have a new adjustment window. Make sure the drop down box says ‘default’ again so that your photo is ready to be adjusted. Then move the little sliders around to adjust the contrast. The sliders each control the darks (far left), mediums (middle) and lights (far right) of the photo. Since Dillon’s face is over exposed, I want to turn that down a bit. Since the lights slider is already all the way over, I can’t turn that down, so I’ll settle for the mediums. In this example, I’m first turning the medium tones down, and then clicking okay without adjusting either of the other 2 sliders. Most of the time, you can adjust the photo how you want it by only doing the levels this one time. Notice the histogram (little wavelength thingies) behind the sliders, those are telling you where the tones (dark, medium, light) are in terms of exposure.

But I want to add some more of the darker tones in, so I go back to the levels (again!), to do that. This second set of levels is NOT necessary with all photos, so if you have it the way that you like it the first time around, then just save it and call it a day! :o) This time I move the darks slider over a tad, and then add some of the medium back in to get more contrast. Also notice the histogram levels are different this time around than they were the first time I adjusted the levels. Again, just play around with the sliders until you have it the way that you want it. If you need to start over, just click the drop down box back to default again.

And we’re done! PHEW! I know this was long, but actually editing the photo before changing it to black and white is essential to getting a crisp result. My photo is still a bit over exposed on his face, so I would go back and fine tune that part of it, but I won’t make everyone else suffer through that with me. The adjustments of the curves and levels can be done using color photos as well, of course, but I find the curves to be more important in color photos and levels in black and white. It’s really a matter of preference, so just play around and see what you like and what you’re comfortable with. Here’s the final comparison!

Thanks so much for joining me today, I’ll see you all next week for another edition of Flight Lessons, which will include this same tutorial using PS! :o)

Signing off for now,
Heather (heatherbird)

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