I recently purchased a very nice Canon PIXMA Pro-100 color photo printer to start printing out some of my better photographs and I have to tell you, the printer is nothing short of outrageously high quality. I have seen the photos that I printed out dozens of times on my computer screen, but that doesn’t come close to the experience of holding a high quality, glossy print out of what I once thought of as just good. Printed images bring things to an entirely different level and I encourage you to look into transforming something that was once virtual into something that’s tangible. It’s so worth it.
Anyway, all this printing got me thinking about the data that’s captured in an image by a camera versus the data that’s actually sent to a printer to be processed. As I’m sure you’re aware by this point, it’s entirely possible to lose a lot of data during post-processing by way of clipping. If you aren’t aware of what clipping is, it’s when you either make your whites too white or your blacks too black. You essentially make what was once captured in the color spectrum disappear. You can do this inside the camera itself when you shoot your image or you can do this in an editing application such as Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom or Photoshop.
The reason I began thinking of this area of editing recently is because of the printing that I’ve been doing. If I over edit an image for online use exclusively, the lost data isn’t very noticeable. If I print out that same image though, solid white or black areas will show in ways that don’t look good at all. When printing, it’s much more important to make sure every area of your image contains data.
Since I’m trying to avoid a complete rehash of a post I previously wrote, I’ll lead you to that one for a primer on the clipping indicators that can be found in Adobe Camera Raw. If you’re interested in learning about them, please click through to this post:
In today’s post, I’d like to offer you one simple tip that is going to make your life a lot better if you’re a printing maniac like I’m turning out to be. Instead of fooling around with the Whites, Blacks, Highlights and Shadows sliders in Adobe Camera Raw an attempt to remove any clipping that’s occurring in a photograph while editing, I’m going to lead you to a panel that can solve most of your problems. The best part is, your problems will disappear with just three clicks. One to access the proper panel, one to change one small setting and one to adjust a different small setting. This is an awesome tip.
The Demo Photo
For today’s photo, I thought I’d use one of me standing on a frozen lake up here in Maine. I had this picture taken last week during a road trip I was on. If memory serves, this lake is called Round Pond and it’s located in Turner, Maine, or thereabouts. The reason I’d like to use this photo is because it’s bright. Or rather, it’s going to be bright after I’m finished with my editing of it. Because of all the snow and the bright sky, there’s bound to be some clipping of the highlights and whites. The reason I need to make things so bright is because of the position in which I was standing in comparison to the position of the sun. There’s too much shadow on my left half and I’d like to brighten that up. Raising the shadows alone may cause clipping. Raising the exposure overall is bound to cause some too. Basically, there’s going to be solid white blotches on this image and I’m surely not going to want them there. Let’s take a look at the original image.
Editing the Image
Okay, for this section, I’m going to jump straight to the edited version of the photo in question. If you’re interested in how I got to this point in Camera Raw, please check out the post below. I explain it all there.
This is actually a screenshot of the final edited image. I chose to take the screenshot because next, I’m going to show you the same screenshot with all the clipping that’s in it. Here’s the image.
In case you’re interested, these are the slider adjustments I made in the Basic Panel of Camera Raw. As you can see, there’s nothing drastic going on at all. Minor adjustments, if you will.
A Look at the Clipping
At this point, I think I’ll show you the clipping that’s been introduced due to my editing of the photo. To turn on the indicators, I’ll use two keyboard shortcuts. To turn on the Shadow Clipping Warning, I’ll press the U key on my keyboard and to turn on the Highlight Clipping Warning, I’ll press the O key. An easy way to remember these shortcuts is to think of the shadows as under and the highlights as over. That’s where the U and O came from. Here’s a screenshot of the histogram with the indicators on.
As you can see, there’s not much of an issue down in the shadows area, but we’ve got big problems near the highlights. Let me show you the photo with the red overlay showing that’s on top of the areas with no data in them. The data has been blown out due to my edits.
What’s the Problem?
You may be asking yourself, “Okay, you’ve got some clipping. Why not just reduce the highlights or the exposure some by pushing those respective sliders?” Well, the reason for this is because sometimes, clipping can be rather severe. To remove it in its entirety, it would take dramatic shifts in those slider values, which would alter my edits in such a way as to completely ruin them. Since I don’t want to do that, I’d prefer to handle things with a much more delicate touch. I’ll explain this approach next.
Adjusting the Tone Curve
To handle my situation, I’m going to click into the Tone Curve panel in Camera Raw. From there, I’ll click on the Point sub-panel and then I’ll choose RGB from the Channel drop-down box.
If you’ll notice, the left side of the curve controls the shadows and the right side controls the highlights. You can see the histogram behind the curve.
Now to the good part. All I need to do to remove the clipping of the highlights is to click on the point in the upper right corner of the curve with my mouse and drag down about a millimeter. That’s really all it takes. With the red areas of the clipping indicator showing, I can easily see how much I need to drag. Also, once I do this, I’ll notice that my image didn’t change very much at all. I’ll likely not even notice any difference. And if I roll my mouse over an area that was red from the indicator and then look at the RGB values under the histogram in the top right corner of the application, I’ll see that the values are all less than the 255 to make pure white. This is a good thing because it means that as I print the image, no pure white areas will be left in my print, which means a better print out overall.
If I had shadow clipping, I would simply click and drag the lower left corner of the curve and drag up a hair. That would lighten the overall image just a fraction, but enough to avoid pure black. It’s that easy.
Well, I hope I clearly explained how to remove any clipping that exists in an image after editing in Adobe Camera Raw. If you work in Lightroom, you’ll follow the exact same instructions. Everything is laid out the same way. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section down below or in the Camera Raw discussion forum. Thanks for reading!