Fix Skin Color in a Picture

The first thing that you need to do is to choose a picture that you want to fix the skin color on and open in Photoshop. I do want to warn you that this will not totally fix photos that the skin color is off really bad. You only want to use the fix for photos that have a slight to moderate problem.

The next step is to make a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of your original picture. You can do this by clicking on the icon below the layers that looks like a half colored in circle, and clicking on Hue/Saturation. This will bring up the Hue/Saturation window and make it on its own new layer.

Next, with the Hue/Saturation window still open, you want to determine which color is overriding your skin color. Like I said previously, I seem to have the problem with the reds, so I am going to choose the reds for my picture. You can choose the color that you need to in order to fix the skin color in your picture. You can choose the color using the drop down menu in the Hue/Saturation window.

Next, take the Saturation slider and slide it to the left until the skin color looks pretty good, or the best that you can get it without looking fake. Don’t worry about the other parts of the picture right now. Just concentrate on the skin color. We will fix the background colors next.

Once you are satisfied with your skin color, click OK to close out of the Hue/Saturation window, and you will see your new layer above your original picture. If you notice though, the adjustment that you made affected the entire image. To get that back restored to normal, click on the layer mask part of the new layer, and grab your brush tool. Make sure that your foreground color is set to black, and you have a large enough brush so that you are not brushing the background back a long time.

Now, using black, brush in the parts of the photo that you want to restore back to normal. I usually brush in the whole picture except the skin areas that I wanted to fix. This gives me the most realistic look. You are now done with the Photoshop tutorial on how to fix skin color in a picture.

Setting the Image Size

This is size in terms of computer memory or storage and is expressed in kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes. Digital cameras, like all other digital devices, produce digital files that need a certain amount of space to store them. The image size setting on your camera will significantly affect the size of the resultant image file.

It may be easier to think in terms of how many pictures it will take to fill up your memory card. You will get the maximum number of pictures if the image size is at it’s lowest setting. By the same token, you will get the minimum number of pictures when this is at it’s highest setting.

In practice, this means that if getting as many pictures as possible on your card is the most important thing to you, then you need to adjust the image size to the minimum available setting.

Image size has always been an important aspect of cameras even before they became digital. With film cameras it was controlled by the size of the film that the camera would accept. A 35 millimetre camera was called that because that was the size of film it used. If you wanted larger images, you needed a camera that would accept larger film. These were called medium or large format cameras.

When digital cameras came along the idea of being able to take different sizes of image with the same camera became possible. This is simply done by changing the image size setting in your camera. It is perfectly feasible to change the image size between shots and store different sizes of image on the same card.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the effect of using a larger or smaller size of image whether it’s a digital image or the size of the negative you got from a film camera. A bigger image (or negative or transparency) will produce a better image. Most adverts for cameras or other sources of information about digital photography will tell you just that, but it’s not the whole story.

The first thing to consider is what exactly is meant by a “better image”. Things like the accurate reproduction of colour, the image noise produced by the camera or the amount of distortion produced by the lens are entirely unaffected by image size but play a large part in deciding if one picture is technically better than another. It is certainly the case that two different cameras can produce the same size of image but with very different overall technical quality.

That is something to think about when looking to purchase a new camera but it’s not under consideration here because this is just about the effect of altering the size setting on your camera. The only thing that changes when you do this is the “resolution” of the images your camera produces.

The word resolution means the ability to see (or resolve) fine detail in a printed photograph. A high resolution image will have a lot more visible detail than a low resolution image. The image size setting on your camera may even be called resolution because they are so directly related. A large image means high resolution and a small image means low resolution.

Please note that this ability to resolve fine detail only applies when you print your digital photograph and not when you are viewing it on a computer monitor. Viewing a high resolution picture on screen will allow you to zoom in and look at the detail you have captured, but that’s it. When you zoom out to see the whole picture then the resolution of the image you see will be that of the screen itself, it physically cannot be any higher than that.

You can prove this for yourself by simply comparing a high and low resolution image side by side on your computer. As long as they are visibly the same size on screen, they will have the same resolution. No matter how close you get to the screen, you will not see any more detail in the larger, high resolution picture.

In practice this means that if you only ever view your digital images on a computer and never print them then you can use your camera’s smallest image size setting and gain the benefit of being able to store lots more pictures on your memory card.

On the other hand, if you want to make big prints from your camera’s pictures, then you should set the image size to the largest you have available. Another thing you can do with a large image is to print (or view) only a small part of it. This is sometimes called “cropping”. So, if you think you might want to do this at any time then you should set your image size or resolution to its maximum.

The size of a digital image is measured in megapixels, which simply means one million pixels. A pixel is the smallest part of a digital image and is a single colour. If you zoom in close enough to any digital image, you can see the individual pixels that it is made of, all neatly lined up in rows and columns.

You might have noticed that, so far, I have not made any mention of the actual numbers involved. Whereas, every reference to a digital camera you come across will usually include mention of the number of megapixels it has. This is an indication of the maximum size of image that the camera can produce.

The actual size of the image only matters when it comes to comparing cameras but, here is an indication of how megapixels relate to resolution and print sizes. A high resolution print at 6 x 4 inches requires just over 2 megapixels. An A4 print (roughly 8 x 11 inches) at the same resolution needs an 8 megapixel image.

The situation is complicated by the fact that it is easy to resize a digital image after it has been taken. This is called “interpolation” and some editing programs (and even some printers) can do it very well. So well in fact, that they can fool the eye into thinking that your picture has more resolution than is actually there. Added to that is the fact that the human eye has an upper limit to the detail it can resolve.

You could print an 8 megapixel image at 6 x 4 inches and although technically it would be at a much higher resolution than the 2 megapixel version, no human in the world has good enough eyesight to tell. You also have to take into account that large pictures tend to be viewed from further away than small ones, which greatly affects how much detail people can actually see. All in all, the whole issue of image size and resolution is at least partly a matter of personal taste.

When it comes to setting up your camera however, it doesn’t matter what the actual largest size is, just that it’s the largest available from your camera. You should use this setting if you ever want to make big prints or do further editing work like cropping and printing just a part of the picture.

If you have never checked the size setting on your camera, I definitely recommend that you do so. Most cameras will give you a choice of either small, medium or large for the size and, when they first come out the factory, they are usually set to medium. I’m sure the manufacturers’ figure that this is a good compromise setting for most people but personally, I think that it’s the setting that is least likely to be right for most people.

For example, if you have an 8 megapixel camera, then a medium setting is likely to be around 4 megapixels. This is too big to view on screen without shrinking it down and, if this is the only way you want to see your pictures, it is quite wasteful of space on your memory card and hard drive. In these cases you should use the minimum size unless that looks too small on screen (you may have a very big screen).

The other side of the coin is that, if you have spent your hard earned money on an 8 megapixel camera because you want to print big, high quality pictures or do some photo editing then, unless you have the image size set to maximum, you wont be taking 8 megapixel pictures. You could have saved your money and just bought a 4 megapixel camera.

Controlling Sharpness

  • Use a Tripod – We humans don’t make for a very sturdy platform, so (whenever possible) use a tripod to steady your camera. Some alternatives to the tripod are monopods, beanbags, logs, rocks, and string. Yes string (look up “string tripod”).
  • Shutter Speed – If you’re ignoring tip #1, you should at least be using a fast shutter speed. The rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed faster than 1/(focal length) — so a 200mm focal length should get at least a 1/250 second shutter speed. If you are using a tripod, you’ll want to avoid the 1/30 to 1/4 second range unless you lock your mirror up. The mirror slap can actually cause enough vibration to shake the camera a bit. If you can lock your mirror, do it.
  • Aperture – The first part to this one is depth of field, more of which will at least create the appearance of higher sharpness. As you stop down the lens, more of your image will be in focus. The second part to the aperture tip is using the “sweet spot” for that lens. Every lens has an aperture that produces optimal sharpness results. For most, this is somewhere around two or three stops down from the maximum aperture (but do a little research on your particular lens).
  • ISO Speed – Slower ISOs tend to resolve more detail, in addition to producing less noise. ALWAYS use the lowest ISO value possible! You should only bump the ISO when you can’t achieve the results you need by altering the shutter speed and aperture.
  • Good Glass – High quality lenses give you the capability to produce high quality photos (technical quality). Buy the best you can afford. When doing your lens research, look for lenses with high resolution and high contrast. If you’re out for ultimate sharpness, a high quality prime lens will typically out-perform a high quality zoom.
  • High Contrast – Our eyes naturally pick up on high contrast situations, and this can give your photo a better appearance of sharpness. Look for subjects that display high contrast, such as direct sunlight situations. You can also boost the contrast in post-production by using things like Photoshop’s levels and curves adjustments. In addition to lighting contrast, color contrast can improve the appearance of sharpness. Both types of contrast can be smothered by light hitting the front of the lens, creating a hazy photo. To avoid this, use a lens hood or shade the lens by some other method. Polarizing filters and UV filters also tend to help with sharpness by cutting out some of the haze and boosting contrast.

Shooting Interiors

  • Use a wide angle lens. Shooting wide can make the room look great, especially when in Hong Kong, the size of the property is most likely less than 100 sq. meters. In a confined space, sitting tight into one corner while you try to get the other three corners in just looks wrong. You shouldn’t shoot all three walls into one picture. Showing the highlights of the interior design features is important. About the lens, anything in the 16-24mm range on full frame (or the APS-C equivalent which equates to 10-16mm approx. on some less expensive camera) is great. I often use 17mm full frame for my wide interior work.
  • Sufficient indoor and natural lighting are both important. Light up the room. If there is good natural light coming through the windows, use that as well. Adjust the overall feeling of the lighting to a balanced and optimized level.
  • Find the best angle. Take time to explore different angles to shoot from. Decorate the room with small artistic items, plants or anything you like to add a bit of creativity. We can’t all afford a tilt-shift lens to keep perspective in check, so it’s a really good idea to shoot with the camera at or slightly above mid-room height. This means you can keep the camera aimed out straight to keep the walls vertical. While the perspective distortion you get can be corrected in post-production, it’s much easier to get it right in camera. This is another reason to use a tripod as well.
  • Use post-processing software, e.g. Photoshop or Lightroom. You should bring the Highlights down and open up the Shadows. Next bring the Blacks down to ensure that the contrast lost from opening up the Shadows doesn’t impact the image too much.

Flat Bed Scanner Fustrations

This is a nightmare of a question and one which is not easily answered without first responding with the question ‘what do you know about image post processing and pre-press?’, followed, usually in my case, by the whole book preamble on the history of photography. It serves little purpose. Most individuals in my experience of this subject, are impulse buyers who have swallowed the manufacturer carrot and purchase on the basis of product appearance and little understanding of the mechanics or specification. By the time I have gotten to Niepce, listeners are already bored stiff. You know the glazed eye look…

This aside, there are novices with a genuine interest and limited budgets to spend. So here goes.

Several years before I purchased my first flat bed scanner and at a time when I was building digital stock for the future digital archive, I used a local lab which had invested (early to mid 1990s) in some expensive kit. They had Agfa digital film recorders, a raft of Apple Mac computers, a Scitex flat bed and top-end Umax scanners. With all this stuff, the lab could meet the professional quality demands of its advertising agency client requirements – and believe me, they had some big players in the game.

I used their Scitex and Umax scanning services mainly for digitalising medium and large format film. Costs ran at around £10 – £20 per image, depending on set-up time. This was expensive and I only used the service when I knew I could sell the image and have the client pay for everything on top of the repro fee. Still, it was cheaper than another local lab which offered laser drum scans.

In time, I acquired my own flat bed scanner; a Microtek, which I was running on an Apple Mac Performa-Pro (1993). The only time you could tell you had done things right was when the magazine came out; my Performa screen had pitiful resolution and this combined with some dreadful scanning software was a non starter when it came to visualising what was right or wrong. It was very much seat of the pants scanning; you just crossed your fingers and hoped. And most of the time, reproduction was acceptable, only occasionally could I tell it had been a really long night on the pixels.

Soon I graduated to an iMac G3. The screen resolution was higher and a lot clearer. I bought one of the then new Heidelberg Linoscan flat bed scanners with a tranny hood, having first investigated the software it was bundled with and sweet-talked the distributor into demo scanning a stack of 120 format Kodachrome’s – yes, in the 1990s, my preferred reversal stock was available in medium format.

The demo scans were not perfect but the difference in quality between them and what I had been paying an arm and a leg for off the Scitex or Umax, was marginal. The test would be in the final repro quality and after a few weeks I had sold enough and seen the results to have a pretty good idea of what the machine could do.

Life went on. I scanned and scanned and spent a lot of time making up special holders for old glass plates and larger format transparencies to avoid the problem of Newton’s Rings. I hardly thought about what went on inside the box until one day, the lamp used for reflective scans gave out.

To fit the new lamp, follow the maker’s instructions by undoing two retaining machine screws and lift off the plastic glass platen frame. It was then that it hit me.

Light travels in straight lines right?

Right. Except when it’s inside a flat bed scanner.

Then it gets bent all over the place by thin mirror strips before finally being focused through a tiny objective onto a CCD.

Let’s just have a short think here about what we are dealing with. Light, imaging and scanning. A sort of electronic enlarger. The principle is almost the same. Light is passed through film and its rays are collected somewhere in the box to make a digital image.

Now, if I recall, the old film enlargers I used in my darkrooms in decades past, all had their insides well painted with a matt black, non light reflecting paint. Indeed, in high quality machines, light baffling was so sophisticated, one never had any concern for leakages. More attention was paid to the darkroom door.

But what have we here in the average flat bed scanner? Well, light is transmitted first through two large sheets of platen glass (one in the tranny hood, one on the bed) between which are sandwiched the negs or trannies being scanned. These are glass sheets the size of foolscap paper (or larger on A3 models.) Hold one sheet up to a lamp and anyone can see what it does to light transmitted through it – scatter, scatter,scatter. And lo, the whole of the interior box of the machine is a nice shiny grey plastic. All the bits of metal and other plastic used to house the lights are all highly reflective. Even the black plastic bed on which the thin mirror strips are mounted for collecting the reflected rays and bouncing them to another mirror strip before transmission to the lens, is all shiny and new.

What were the dumbells who designed this machine thinking of? Rhetorical. This Heidelberg turned out to be a rebadged Umax – made in Japan. I suspect many other similar products are put together the same way, with little thought given by designers or engineers to the real purpose of the device.

The question trickling through my mind at the time was, what happens if I paint all of the accessible shiny parts with matt black paint? Would this have any effect on improving image quality? Would it push up contrast; would it increase the dynamic density range?

There was nothing to lose. Out came the matt black Humbrol, masking tape and a paint brush. Soon, all of the parts I could reach were matted. On some of the edges of black plastic mouldings where it looked as if light rays would almost certainly be reflected back but which were difficult to reach with a loaded brush, I used double side tape and strips of black velvet from the gates of old film canisters. When I figured I had done enough, I cleaned the insides of both platen glasses and reassembled the machine.

Immediately, there was a noticeable improvement in the final scans, particularly in the area of shadow detail where the Heidelberg had not previously been able to extract much detail. Contrast went up and with it, apparent sharpness. So far so good. Scan quality improved as I learned to tweak the finer points of the bundled LinoColor software; clients were happy.

A note about the software.

LinocolorElite was put together by a company whose origins were deeply rooted in the British printing industry – remember Linotype machines? The German company Heidelberg bought Linocolor, marketed a raft of hi-end and low end rebadged Umax scanners with bundled Linocolor software and then jumped out of the business. Used Heidelberg machines can still be found but the better specified machines from the 1400 model up usually only run on old SCSI connections.

But I digress. The point about this is that most current flat beds have not significantly improved in mechanical design at the same rate at which resolution capacities have increased and while reproduction quality generally looks acceptable, I don’t see the giant leap. Visual appearance depends on printing methods, paper, inks and all the rest of that side of the business, but what I want in an ideal world is the near perfect scan and for this, one usually has to pay a premium.

Just recently, I noticed a slight fall off in scanned image quality while digitalising a batch of old b+w prints. One side of the image was o.k. the other side slightly fuzzy, as if someone had sprayed the screen image with diluted milk. I cleaned the monitor. It made no difference. An inspection of the flat bed platen glass provided no clue as to the cause.

In a fit of pique, I stripped the machine again. The thought of micro bugs similar to those sometimes seen in a camera viewfinder crawling all over the three line CCD low pass filter and leaving their minute traces of dirt, was uppermost.

I could neither find nor see anything. The interior was spotless, except when I shone a high powered torch onto one of the thin collecting mirrors; a barley visible thin patch of surface blooming like a small cloud such as would be visible on a steamed up lens, was the obvious culprit.

I suppose that even if one worked these machines in a scientifically audited clean room, foreign matter and atmospheric pollution would, in time, affect component performance. In the real world home or office environment, the risk of attack over a short period of time is much higher. I still do not know what caused the blooming, but for good measure I cleaned all the mirror strips and the collecting lens with impregnated tissues supplied by Carl Zeiss. And while I had the top off the mirror box, I added more velvet strips to parts which looked vulnerable to light scatter and blacked out the inside of the fluorescent light tube housing with more Humbrol.

The mirror cleaning cured the original problem, and now there was also another hike in both contrast and apparent sharpness levels. An acquaintance in the USA with access to special measuring equipment reported a recent set of scans from 5X4 inch Fujichrome originals having only a 1.2% colour balance error; better than the 2-3% normally experienced from scans produced on high end machines and far better than the 10 -20% errors often experienced on off-the-shelf consumer products. And this from the raw un-post processed scans made using my own ICC profile for the film.