June 30, 2011
Shoot and Edit Week 25 – Sunrise…I mean, Kitty Paw: EDIT (Red Channel)
Welcome to the 25th week of Shoot and Edit: Part 2. Click HERE for all the details and upcoming prompts/themes (also including previous editing tutorials). This week’s theme or prompt was to show us one “Sunrise” SOOC shot (this was just a suggestion, you can show us any SOOC shot). I clearly did not follow the rules, but hopefully you linked up with Jill’s blog earlier this week.

Each Thursday, I will take my SOOC shot and provide some basic editing tips. You can then try these tips on your own photos and link up here – linky will now open EARLY on Thursdays and be open THROUGH SUNDAY. If you’d prefer, can simply share your own edit and show us what you did to achieve the look. We want this challenge to be a learning experience, so feel free to teach us something new too! Also, it does not matter what editing program you use. Although I tend to work within Adobe CS5 (Photoshop), Photoshop Elements and Adobe Camera Raw…it does not mean that you have to use the exact same program. I hope you’ll be able to take the concepts and apply them in the program you feel most comfortable using.

Today, I’d like to talk about “the dreaded red channel.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about (and it’s more than shooting the color red) – pay attention. I’m actually going to revisit a photo I shared last week because it’ll be the perfect example of blowing the red channel – I only realized this after getting some constructive criticism. Before we get into the meat of today’s tutorial though, here’s the SOOC shot I shared earlier this week:
Kitty Paw Playtime SOOC RS
I love bright, happy images – I often “expose to the right” (meaning that I slightly overexpose). But there is a fine line between bright and happy, and overblown images…thus the reason that Jill has spent so much time teaching us how to properly expose an image. It is much easier to properly expose in camera than it is to correct an image during post-processing.

I recently posted this image (to the right). I received a lot of “great shot,” “you look beautiful,” etc. comments, but one person was kind enough to point out that I’d overblown my red channel. In fact, she pointed out that my levels were over 240 (specifically on my arms and legs). Embarrassingly enough, although I knew what she was talking about…I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Fortunately, she offered a link: CLICK HERE.

Now, feel free to go straight to Two Peas in a Bucket – it’s incredible information (and I fully recommend at least reading the basics), but a bit overwhelming. If you want to hang here, I will try to break down her steps and also talk about recovery.

A common mistake when photo processing is “blowing your red channel.” By that, we’re referring to the RGB numbers that make up the colors in any given image. “We have 256 levels of color in each channel (0-255), and the closer to 255 you are, the more saturated the color and the closer to white you are.” To blow any channel means that you’ve fully saturated that color to create white…and unless you’re going for white, blowing a channel will lose all detail and be unsuitable for printing. I’m not necessarily saying that you blow the color RED (even though you may have trouble shooting red) in an image when you blow the red channel…more likely, you’re blowing any part of an image that includes red such as skin tones (lighter skin tones are more prone to this, but you can just as easily blow darker skin tones if you aren’t careful). The tutorial I linked to above says, “In general, any number over 245 is considered to be blown for printing,” but she recommends to keep skin under 235.

So let’s get into it…how do you even know how to check your numbers? For Photoshop and Photoshop Elements Users: Go to WINDOW and be sure that INFO is selected (the shortcut for PC users is F8). A window like the one to the left will pop up. You can use your mouse to scroll over parts of the image. If you see anything over 245 on the RGB side of the window, then you’ll know you’ve overblown a channel. For example, look at this area on my arm (below, on the left). Based on numbers alone, it’s very clear that I’ve blown my red channel.

Still don’t see it? If you really want to see if you’ve blown your red channels, go into your levels (I’ve included a small screen shot below on the right). Hold down the ALT key (or option) and drag the left slider all the way to the right. You should see something like my middle image. If the red channel is blown, you’ll see those spots in red. This approach also provides us with a number…and as you see here, it’s well over 245. Yep – I definitely blew it!
IMG_5512 Closer Crop-RGB IMG_5512 Closer Crop- RED ZONE

Not that I was going to print this image of myself, but WOW – what an eye opener. Just for fun, I went back to my SOOC shot. You’ll be happy to know that it was a properly exposed shot. For those of you using Adobe Camera Raw, you can actually warn yourself of blown highlights by clicking the upper right arrow (for the highlights or the upper left arrow for shadows – will show up blue). If you’ve blown the red channel, those blown areas will show up in red.

I managed to blow out the red channel during post-processing…thus the reason it is SO IMPORTANT to keep that info tab open and to check your numbers during processing. But let’s say you’re like me, and you’ve already blown your red channel/highlights. How do you recover? Jodi from MCP Actions offers a great tutorial on fixing both shiny skin and a blown red channel:

I’m not going to bother trying to repair the image I shared last week, and Kitty Paw doesn’t really need to be repaired (I did blow my red channel at the bottom of this image of Kitty Paw, but it’s really light carpet so the detail isn’t important)…but, I hope between the information above, the tutorial I linked to and this recovery video, you’ve gotten a better understanding of “the dreaded red channel.” Furthermore, I hope you’ll be more aware of the red channel when processing your photos. Here’s a final look at Kitty Paw – just some nice, clean processing.
Kitty Paw Playtime RS
So, to recap our lesson, today we discussed the red channel/blowing your highlights and recovering your highlights. For your edit, I would love to see you continuing using the lessons we’ve covered in the past 24 weeks. I’m not sure I expect anything in particular with your edit, but I do hope you’ll be more aware during processing…I know I am. Also, if you have any good tips to share regarding channels, bring it on (I just ask that you present it in an information sharing type of way).

Here’s a final look at my SOOC vs. Edited shot:
Kitty Paw Playtime Compare
I hope you found today’s lesson useful and I hope you have a great Thursday! If you have any questions or need more explanation, don’t hesitate to contact me (I’ll do my best to answer your questions). Next week’s theme is “Red, White and Blue.”


    I was just thinking today how much I hate photographing the color red, haha. I can’t wait to dive deeper into this info so maybe I will enjoy photographing all colors equally! ;)

    Oh and I love this photo and the hubs was standing behind me saying “how is that before and after… it is the same photo!” lol. It is a seriously awesome sooc!

    Thanks for this! I always have a hard time photographing red…aside from white, it’s the worst one in the world to have to shoot (to me). Can’t wait to add this to my bag of editing tricks. :)

    What a great tutorial. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to play around with this tomorrow.

    Marla @ http://www.blueskiesphotoblog.com

    Very handy tutorial! Now if I can just figure out how to not blow out the channels in the SOOC.

    Really a great shot of Kitty Paw!

    Beautiful photo with a great processing.

    Great info! I know just the picture I want to edit! Tyler sits on my laps and looks at blogs with me in the morning and this morning when he saw the big picture of Kitty Paw he said, “Mommy! I want to watch the Kitty Paw movie!” He was bummed it was just a picture ;) I think you should do a Kitty Paw Vlog! ;)

    Awesome, thanks for sharing! That is definitely an area that I need to learn more about :)
    Great shot of kitty paw, I love the coloured ribbon in the background :)

    Great shot of Kitty Paw!! I love the post process.

    I still want to know how they found out all of your information and post processing details??? Gosh I have NO clue how to see that stuff and honestly unless I want someone checking it out and giving me an opinion – please don’t go there. Because what if the edit looked great to you – which it originally did and others loved it too. You are not a pro photographer and guess what MANY who are do worse things than blow out the red in their editing. Just sayin’

    Hugs and thanks for another awesome tutorial!

    Good morning Kitty Paw

    Your tutorials are always bookmarked by me. Break it down, gurl! :) I think my favorite so far was your tutorial on tilt shift. However the tiny world was super cool, too. I have yet to try that one. (the one in the shape of a circle) … you always have fun new things and appreciate that about you!


    I have so much to learn!

    My cats love Kitty Paw.

    GREAT tutorial! Loved it! Thanks!

    This is very helpful. I have this problem often, but have been unsure what to do about it. I will watch the video.

    All the more reason to keep working on my SOOC shots

    Oh wow, this was so helpful. I have had no formal training on photography and am learning everything from reading blogs. Although I have not participated in the challenge I love reading your posts. I am learning so much and seeing my images improve. I need to find someone that will tell me things like I blew a channel. That is how you learn. :)
    Great job explaining and thank you so much!

    This is a great tutorial. I hate to think about the number of photos I’ve taken and posted that had this issue. With that said, I think your shot was lovely just the way it was.

    Love the lesson! I am trying so hard to figure out how to translate that into Gimp! (Not figuring it out yet, however I have found some new features while searching and clicking LOL)

    OK – so I am exhausted and can’t seem to absorb anything, but I find myself wandering to your page and checking out Kitty Paw, which made my day. Thanks! Hey – I am interested in photographing Yoga poses…. what do you think? Future Scav Hunt thingy? :) Miss you!

    Great explanation! I’ll be looking at this element in my processing from now on! :)

    That Kitty Paw is too very cute…thanks for the great tips as always.


    Great tutorial, Thanks! So much to learn, so little time!

    Great tutorial and beautiful new look on the blog, I love it!

    Have a nice weekend, kisses:)

    I love tips on processing blown out areas so your explanation of the red channel is awesome! Thank you for explaining it in easy to understand language.
    This is also such a cute pic of KP also!

    Wow, this is great! Love this tutorial. I had no idea what that meant…thanks. I hate photographing red…except my child of course!

    I def. think you have a hunger for knowledge that I do not fully possess when it comes to photography. I actually found this post very helpful, fascinating and informative but, gosh, that would be so timely to actually do those kinds of touch ups to every shot. That is what I wrestle with is deciding how much time I actually want to spend on pictures, especially when doing sessions for clients. This is good for a special shot every now and then though. Loved the video too. What a difference that made!

    *BOOM* That was my head exploding by the way! I had no idea. What an eye it would take to spot that. Now I must go click that link, read more and hope not to blow my brain up anymore for today with all of this new info to absorb :)

    This is so great, I am just diving into Photoshop and am like a lost puppy! SO much to learn! But I love these tutorials, really makes a big difference. Keep them coming!

    This is a GREAT tutorial. I’m bookmarking it so I can refer back to it!

    such great info, and great shot of KP, she always brightens my day!

    Okay- I love when you talk about these things. Gives me so many more things to think about. Although- I do think that between shooting & editing- it really can be about the personal preferences. If you liked it- then why do the technical things matter? Yes- if you are printing the photo those are good things to keep in mind- but I do think that a beautiful shot isn’t always technically perfect.

    Having said that- these things will be forever in the back of my mind- making me question every step I take now :)

    Had no idea about the whole red channel thing, thanks for the info.

    awesome tutorial :) thank you so much for sharing! (and great picture of the cat too!)

    Awesome edit.

    Wow, great info!! I’m almost afraid to go back and look at my photos that I used to think were “just perfect”! I know that someday I’ll want to print some of them. Thanks for the tutorial & link. I love finding out what I don’t already know. Much easier than googling “Things Amber doesn’t know about post processing”!

    um…. what? I had no idea you could “blow a red channel”. Shows you how much I really know. LOL! Thanks for this – I’ll definitely be checking this from now on. I bet I’ll be way surprised.

    Thanks for this tutorial! ciao ciao

    you always give the best tutorials! awesome! love that pic of you too!

    Great tutorial!! I love bright photos as well and will have to keep an eye on this! Love your PP!

    I love this shot of Kitty Paw!!

    I’m missing out on so many great tutorials. I’m taking a few days off work, so I hope I can find time to go back and review them. I’ve had so little time for photography lately and I miss it!

    Have a great 4th!

    I agree w/ Casey, it takes a really determined person to say, “hey I didn’t know that, but I want to!” rather than “ehh, why bother learning something that I don’t really need anyway?”

    I’m impressed.

    I did want to reply to one person that asked how someone could tell just by looking at your photo that the red channel was blown. Sometimes I tilt my screen back and can see that there is no detail left and I know it’s blown, other times it just pops out at me.

    Happy 4th of July to you and Kitty Paw!!

    Well, despite the blown red channel, I still think you’re beautiful! lol! :)

    Stink, I’d have no clue on how to look at a photo and say you blew a channel… (I could see that you may have blown highlights, but imo as long as the blown highlights are not on the most important part of the pic, they’re ok in my book!) they must have had a very good eye to be seeing it!

    Thanks for writing all this out — I remember seeing something like this before on how to check your numbers, but I didn’t really get the why. Now I know! :)