Complex Tutorial: Postcard

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icon_tipNote: before you try the following professional tutorial, we advise you to read our Before/After Tutorials, which are also displayed within CodedColor in the left hand toolbar of the Image Editor.


The following tutorial combines some of the unique editing capabilities of CodedColor PhotoStudio. In case you ever envied the perfection of photos in magazines, postcards and photo contests, have a close look at the tricks we will show you in this short tutorial. After this you might see "expert" photos from a different perspective, and you'll probably think twice about dumping some of your "novice" shots.


As you can see below, the original picture was taken during bad weather and light conditions, and with some annoying objects in the image. Here are some of the comments you might hear from a critical expert:


I thought you said the weather was good... Where's the sun?
I can't really see your face, it's too dark. Next time use a flash.
Bad composition - the ski in the foreground is somewhat annoying.
Was it really a skitour, or did you actually use the lift?


Original image

Edited image




Full Size




Full Size


It's not easy being green, right? Especially not at -15 degress. Well, don't worry, from now on you can fix all of these little flaws and turn boring photos into amazing postcards in a few easy steps.


And here's how it's done:


1. Add some sunlight (easy)




Even though there are several approaches to adding sunlight, I found that the most flexible result can be achieved in the Curves > Levels panel. You can also try the Exposure Correction tools in addition to this.


The idea is to stretch the histogram, in order to get more contrast in the high tones. For this you should move the Hight Tone slider from 255 to about 240, and then press Apply.




Next, you might want to remove the blue stain resulting from a faulty white balance in the camera, which often happens in snowy environments.


Using the Automatic White Balance of CodedColor turns out to be too radical, so open the Color > Color Cast panel and use the Pipette to select a stained snow area, which will then be "cleaned" to a shade of white and gray.


2. Add some flash (very easy)




This feature is very innovative, as it automatically detects the underexposed areas in the image and brightens them up, leaving everything else untouched.


In the Exposure > Smart Flash panel, move the Slider to about half the scale, and press Apply. You will notice, that the person in the image lights up as if you had used a flash on location.


3. Remove the ski (advanced)




Now comes the fun part where you can be somewhat more creative, much like an artist touching up a painting.


Open the Clone Brush tool, select a brush radius of about 30 and a feather of about 75, then press the SHIFT button and click on a snowy part of the image next to the ski. Then just paint over the ski, replacing it with snow.


You can select several different source points, in order to make the result more realistic. If you are unsatisfied, press the Undo button and try again. You will need some practice with this, as the coming clone task is a little more difficult.


4. Remove the skilift (expert)





The ski lift runs through the whole image, and you will need a steady hand in order to remove it without a trace.


To start of, undo the zoom with the No Zoom button, and pan to the left part of the image. Again, open the Clone Brush, but this time select a much smaller brush radius of about 10 and an even smaller feather. Now SHIFT+Click in the snow above the cable, then slowly paint over the cable from left to right.


If you need more practice, then start with the fence at the bottom of the image, which you might also want to remove.


Once you get to the lift station behind the person, you may also need the Eraser brush and the Retouch Blur tool, in order to correct some mistakes and soften the borders.


Note, that the Eraser brush undoes all changes to the image, including the exposure corrections at the beginning of the tutorial. So you might want to save the image under a different name prior to any cloning, in order to clear the undo memory.


Once you're done with the removeal of unwanted objects, you might touch up some of the cloned areas showing obvious texture redundance, again using the clone and retouch brushes.


5. Change the weather (play god)




Finally, we come to the most dramatic improvement to the original image, where we will replace the rainclouds with a sunny sky.


For this, we need to find another image close to the same size, with the sky we would have liked to have on that overcast skiing day. Load this image in the Fill Tool texture panel.


We then move the tolerance slider to about 15, click on the fill bucket and then in the sky above the mountain. We will immediately see the gray sky area filled with our source image.





Since the sky will probably spill over the mountain, there are 3 measures we can take:


1.decrease the tolerance slider and see an immediate decrease in spill
2.use the eraser brush at the top of the Fill Tool to manually remove the spill
3.use the lasso to restrict the area which will be filled        


For best results, you can combine any of these measures.


icon_tipAn alternative to the Fill Tool is the Paint Tool, where you can also paint with a texture from an external source image. This may take a little more time, but the result can be more exact.


There you go - with a little practice, you can produce amazing postcards from your favorite images, even without the use of expensive tools and complicated layer techniques. Especially the Clone, Retouch, Paint and Fill brushes in CodedColor PhotoStudio provide you with a huge palette of professional improvement techniques. Have fun - this may become more enjoyable than painting itsself.


icon_tip Footnote: All photos were shot with a Pentax Optio digital camera with 5 million pixels. The flash and exposure modes were set to fully automatic. No camera internal correction was applied, and the output format of the images was JPEG (not RAW). While the autofocus rendered mostly sharp images, different color and exposure errors occurred. The digital improvements were all done with the CodedColor PhotoStudio image editor, but were also compared to Adobe PhotoShop, Paintshop Pro and Gimp. While these programs sometimes had more options, the results were not significantly better in quality, but often took longer to accomplish. Picasa and IrfanView were not included in this comparison - since the few editing tools provide even less options, they cannot be considered classic image editors.






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