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.”