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2.2 Baseline Exposure and Contrast

Before you dig into making your photo look great, you need a flat, well-exposed image. Neutralized images let you evaluate everything consistently and plan your work. We will also take a look at the color adjustment tools within DxO OpticsPro, how to read a histogram, and how to adjust our image’s exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows.

2.2 Baseline Exposure and Contrast

In this lesson, we'll talk about the importance of producing flat, well-exposed images so that you can evaluate everything equally. We'll also take a look at the color adjustment tools within DxO, as well as the Histogram. And we'll discuss how to use the histogram to adjust our image's exposure, contrast, highlights, and shadows. If you'd like to display your center image larger, you can click and drag your file browser downward. It shows you a larger display of your image, which allows you to focus on it more. So let's talk about why in this initial raw processing staged, we want to first correct our photo so that they're simply neutral. When working with a group of photos, the point of these initial light edits is to get everything to a neutral standpoint so that you can decide which photos are the best. Which ones you want to discard and how far you will eventually want to push them stylistically. In this early stage of editing, you want your photo to be not too anything. With the end result being flat, well-exposed images, so that you can evaluate a group or series of images together equally. This ultimately keeps everything consistent with each other all the way to the final raster edits that you end up making to them. Next let's chat about how to read a histogram in order to help us in this corrective process. When used correctly the histogram can be an extremely useful tool to correct the exposure of your images. Let's take a look at our image's histogram, in the histogram palette in the upper right corner. A histogram allows you to see the concentration of pixels that are in the black, white and gray spectrum. Black is on the left, and in your middle area, it's 18% gray. And your white information is on the righthand side of the histogram. Also you're able to view your image's separate channels by clicking on the buttons directly below the histogram. And so selecting the red channel shows you the red information, and so on with green, and blue, as well as the luminensce channel. And selecting the RGB button displays all the information at once. Clipping can occur on either end of the spectrum in the histogram. Clipping is when information in your highlights or shadows gets cut off. You can tell when information is being clipped when either end of your histogram is devoid of information. Your highlights are on the right side and your shadows are on the left. And so for our image, you can see that we have a pretty good distribution of information within our histogram. When clipping does occur, it will be necessary to adjust your exposure of your image. Now there are cases where a skewed histogram is acceptable if the style you are trying to achieve calls for it. For example, a high contrast photo could have a histogram that displays information that's not evenly distributed. We'll leave our histogram open during this course so that we can see how our adjustments affect it. Let's head over to the Essential Tools palette and explore the Exposure and Contrast settings. So we'll open that up and you can see by the blue buttons which settings are already activated. We'll start by activating the Exposure Compensation tools. We'll click on the arrow next to it to display those options and you can either select the button next to it to activate this setting. Or when you adjust your exposure, it automatically activates the setting for you. And for this image, we will adjust the exposure ever so slightly higher. And as we do this, notice how the information on the histogram is changing. We don't want to over expose our image. We want these adjustments to be very slight. And if it's helpful for you, you can activate the dual image mode so that you can compare your starting point with your ending point. And you'll notice if I take this slider too far to the right we begin to lose important information in our image. Heavy clipping is occurring, our highlights are reflected on the right side of our histogram and as you can see, most of the information is crowded over to that side. Showing that we're loosing other information on the left side of the histogram. And likewise when you take the slider to the left an under exposure image severely. The information on the histogram is on the other side. And so now we have information crowded in the shadow area of our histogram showing that there's a severe lack of highlight information in our image. Let's adjust the exposure of this image ever so slightly to a value of positive .17. Next let's work with the Contrast Dropdown settings. You can head down to contrast and select the arrow to open those settings. And here we have our Contrast and Microcontrast sliders. The contrast slider effects the contrast of the overall image. And as you can see, clicking and dragging the slider to the right increases the contrast, clicking and dragging it to the left decreases the contrast. Notice that the information from the image is becoming more concentrated in the center of the histogram, as our image becomes more washed out with gray tones. The Microcontrast slider increases the contrast of the smaller details in your image. Similar to sharpening. Clicking and dragging it to the right, increases those details, as you can see with our after image. And clicking and dragging it to the left softens everything. For this particular image we'll leave the microcontrast at a value of zero and we will raise the general contrast of the image ever so slightly. Again not to stylize the photo but to restore contrast that was in the original scene when we took the image. We'll leave it at a value of about 24. And we'll go ahead and hide the Contrast settings for now, as well as any other settings that you need to in order to simplify this palette view. Now let's look at the Selective Tone tools, and we'll go ahead and open that up. And this is where we'll find the sliders to adjust our highlights, midtones, shadows, and blacks in our image. And so you see we have a slider for each of these. And so, by clicking and dragging on each of these sliders, it adjusts the corresponding information in our image. And so with the Highlights Tool you can explore how it can dull down on increase the highlights of our image, and notice how that effects the histogram. With the Midtones we can adjust the midtones in our photo as well. With the Shadow slider we can decrease, or increase the amount of shadows that appear in our image. And we can also adjust the blacks in our image with the final slider. For this image we will actually decrease the shadows ever so slightly, and this is to bring back some of the details that occur around her neck and within her hair. And we'll leave it on a value of seven for the shadow slider. And we'll go ahead and hide those options. And that brings us to the end of this lesson. In this lesson we discussed the importance of producing neutral, well-exposed images. We also took a look at our image's histogram and talked about how that can help you properly process your photo. Finally, we explore our image's exposure, contrast, highlights and shadow settings. In our next lesson, we'll make some adjustments in order to control the colors in our image.

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