Get perfect results by fixing red eye, noise and more in Photoshop Elements
Even though Christmas was weeks ago, the photos still linger. Happy shots of the kids as they unwrap their toys, a copy of WALL.E or a new Mac Pro; the family making merry round the table, two of them asleep and one with red eyes that are nothing to do with the sherry…
Unfortunately, while most cameras can take good pictures with lots of light outdoors on a summer’s day, shooting indoors on dismal winter afternoons under artificial light can lead to disappointing results. Happily, software such as Photoshop Elements can go some way towards rescuing them, with tools for the removal of red eye (caused by light reflecting back into the lens from your subject’s retinas) and electronic noise (caused by amplification of the signal from the sensor, also known as raising the ISO).
However, there are some things that can’t be fixed. In dim conditions, your camera will try to keep its shutter open longer to let in more light. If the subject moves, or the camera wobbles, you’ll get motion blur. Using a flash is the easy way around this, but this opens the door for the dreaded red eyes. The UK Mac App Store carries version 11 of Elements, but version 12, which we’ll be using here, has been available elsewhere for a while. Our photo fixes work in either version, as well as some earlier ones, but the interface may be different. We’ll also be using Expert mode throughout.
SKILL LEVEL: Taking things further
IT WILL TAKE: 15 minutes
YOU’LL NEED: Photoshop Elements, some photos
HOW TO | FIX YOUR PHOTOS IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS
1 Red eyes
In Elements 12, the red-eye removal tool is displayed on the main toolbar to the left of the interface. Selecting it brings up options on the bottom bar – the most appealing of which may be Auto Correct. Try it, and you may get good results, but we think manual correction provides a better fix.
2 Fix red eye
Auto mode guesses where the eyes are, but it’s better to tell it. Keep the tool selected, and click in the centre of your subject’s eyes. If they’re still red, try multiple times, or use the sliders. Elements 12 has a Pet Eye option, which can remove the green/yellow effect seen in animals’ eyes.
3 Too dark
Forget to set your flash off, and you can end up with a dark image. Digital sensors capture most information in the brightest parts of the image. This means, in darker areas, the signal to noise ratio is skewed toward the noise end, and brightening may lead to speckles or a grain-like pattern.
Anything you do to this layer will now only affect the parts you selected. We can use Levels to brighten them up. Select it from Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels and start sliding the grey triangle to the left. There will be a limit to how far you can slide it before you start to create more noise.
Go to Enhance > Adjust Brightness > Shadows/Highlights. This is superior to Brightness and Contrast, because it allows more control. Don’t just adjust the Lighten Shadows slider, however, since this can leave the image washed out – try Darken Highlights and Midtone Contrast too.
5 Layer control
For total control, use a layer mask. Select Layer > Duplicate Layer, and a copy of the background layer appears at the top of the Layers palette. Select it, then use a tool, such as Quick Selection to select dark parts of your image, select Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection, to see your selection.
7 Reduce noise
Noise is the speckly, grainy pattern that comes from raising ISO sensitivity in dim light. It’s more noticeable on screen than in printed photos, but there’s an easy way to reduce it with Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. However, if you raise the strength too high you’ll destroy detail in the photo.
8 Colour cast
A yellowish or bluish tint to photos is often caused by incorrect white balance. If your camera can shoot in RAW, this allows you to alter the White Balance setting, but otherwise Enhance > Adjust Color > Remove Color Cast will help. Click the dropper on different areas until you get a good result.