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How to fill in lost color

I's often very frustrating when you have a really nice scene, but really bad lighting. Or it's so dark in there, that it would be impossible to create an HDR image. If you shoot in RAW (and if your not, start), You already know that you can push the exposure to pretty high amounts. However that trick doesn't always work. Sometimes you have to resort to trickery to get it to look good. 

Ingredients of Medicine by Mike Savad
Ingredients of Medicine - by Mike Savad
Can be purchased as a print or a gift

Adjust the Exposure
Here we are at the start. The colors are drab, and quite dark. Open the image in your Raw editor, select a white point, in this case I found a spot on that blue bottle label. Then adjust the exposure to your liking. Try to get the most out of the colors

Exposure Adjusted
exposure adjusted
The exposure is now adjusted, you can see it's brighter than before and while the colors aren't yet balanced, most of the cast was removed.

I have 2 separate light sources, one I think are halogens, and the other is sunlight streaming in from the behind me. So the mix is a bit tough to remove. When editing this, don't push the color too much or you may gain noise.

It may be necessary to create a second version of this with brighter colors, and another for the label. Edit as you would a painted HDR. 

Adjust the Color
color adjusted 1
You can see a little bit of difference here. Though due to the many shadows, this screen didn't do much. Some of the colors are stronger, this screen can be very useful to push detail and colors out where the other methods don't work.

Adjust the Tone
color adjusted 1
Due to compression it's a little hard to tell that anything changed, but it did, the reds are a bit stronger,  the blue pops a bit more, I added a touch of yellow.

Open the image now, save it, then open it again so we can get a little more detail (as much as I can), from the darker glass areas.

2nd layer - Brighter
brighter image
This is as high as I can go without distorting the color too much.  You can see much more detail now in some of the colors, however that bottle in the middle is still too dark to be enjoyable, and even as a real HDR, without a real light source behind it, it would still be too dark.

Set the layers  so the darkest is at the top, and the lighter at the bottom. Make a mask (that little circle in a square). Use a soft brush, and lightly fill the mask to brighten the details of the bottles. Don't push too hard with the pen, it doesn't have to be super bright, there should be just enough color to show what the bottle looks like.

The 2 layers are mixed
I created a thrid layer just for the labels.

You can see some of the color showing through. It's subtle and just a bit brighter than before. The center bottle is a bit brighter as well. The funny thing is, I was planning on making that bottle purple anyway, So this will make it easier. It's pretty good, but we have to crop and do something about the background.

While I try to remind myself of this, I never do remember when shooting; When photographing shelves like this, keep the subject at the bottom and either have a shelf and a half or two full shelves. Otherwise you have problemslike the one below.

The crop
Yeah that's a bit of a problem. Even if I had a few bottles cut down the middle I'm kind of stuck with this odd crop. I maintain the same crop for everything since I sell these, Consistency is key, otherwise I would have just cropped that shelf.

  • I might be able to send more paneling up that way.
  • Or I could add a new background, masking out the bottles. Which is a pain by the way, but I've done it in the past.
  • Or I could find another shot with the same problem and place bottles on that.

New Shelf
new shelf
I would be lying to you if I said that was easy.

The shelf above is from another shot from the same place I shot the other one. The lighting is the same as is the theme. I preformed the same steps that I used to get the effect for the bottom. I straighten it but it still looks crooked due to that terrible shelf molding. I will clone that out along with a few other small spots.

Cleaned up
cleaned up
Everything is cleaned up. I cloned a bit under that shelf, removed some glaring marks on the bottles and small bits of lights on the glass (as they were distracting). Some of the bottles look a bit flat now, but that will change later on. Now we fix the color with selective color.

Selective Color
selective color
Again the compression of this image makes it hard to see the difference this tool makes. You can do a lot with this tool. Each slider represents the tone of the color your currently on. It's the best way to remove color cast in each individual color. You can push or even change the colors to what you want. So if I wanted to change that blue bottle to purple, I could do that with little trouble. Sometime I it to change green leaves of summer, to orange leaves of fall.

Flatten the image, and create a new layer set it to HARD LIGHT. Use a soft brush.

--Select the Color--
select the color
If you have the latest Photoshop, it has this cool eye dropper tool. It shows what you just selected on the top half, and what you selected the last time for comparison on the bottom. That's what that circle is. Anyway, you can either use the eye dropper or use the BRUSH and hold ALT and the eye dropper will come up.  

Choose the brightest color you can find on the bottle. Even if it looks really dark, even black to the eye, often there is enough color information that you can actually get the original color from the item your enhancing.

The Color Palette
the color palette
Use the color picker (those 2 black and white squares on the bottom of the tool palette). The bottom color is the color you just chose. The top layer is what you want. Choose a color that is BRIGHTER than what you have, choose something straight up from the original for the closest match. Hit OK, and start painting. Use light pressure and even strokes, 

Let's paint
purple bottle
I kept painting it until I liked it. I chose several different types of purple adjusting it one way or another as I went. Darker colors will add shadow, Lighter shades makes it brighter. I'll adjust the shading a little later. Watch your lines as you paint, it's very easy to spill over on something, apply a mask as you go to clean up "spills". Continue on the other bottles, I'll adjust the bottles on the left, and a few above.

I try not to change the original color of the bottle or the liquid too much. I like to keep it as real as possible, while maintaining that painted look.

Shading Complete
So shading is complete. The bottles are colored in, they have some depth back you can see where one bottle starts and the other ends. On a few layers I needed to add some paint directly to the bottle the one in the top right corner was so dark it wasn't taking any color at all. I added a little bit of tint to some of the bottles. You can also see some of the blue cast is gone.

Hard light will allow you to add some color, while maintaining much of the detail underneath.  

Technically I can stop at this step. But I like to add my dynamic shading, which will commence now.

Hopefully you've read my other tutorials, because I won't go into a ton of detail of how I'm shading this. But to start with use the action DARK HDR SHADING

Shading - Complete
shading - complete
First step complete. The shadow layer allows you to paint with light in Photoshop. I started with a soft brush and "scribbled" on the bottles, then the shelf, then the background. Touching up small spots at the end. Next to the OVERLAY layer.

Overlay Layer - Complete
overlay - complete
I started with a large brush, then moved to smaller one for detail work. You can see all the bottles look brighter overall. They have more shape and depth. Remember the white stripes on the purple bottle? It showed where the light source came from. Now with a softer one, it looks a little more painting like. I can still do the same for the other ones if I want, since I can see a few that stick out.

Vivid Light - Complete
vivid - complete
The effect is subtle, it shows up better on metal since metal usually has shiny edges. But you can see a little more depth in some of the areas. The metal cup is more apparent, the highlights are a little brighter, I also added some light brush strokes in a few spots on the top. You'll also note that I removed a few glare marks I didn't like. But not all of them, the pain king and a few others I kept since the shape of the bottle is more apparent on those.

Watch for hot spots, as you remove one other's start glaring out. Like the one I'm looking at is that iodine bottle, which be removed soon enough.  

Next flatten the image, and use the Separate shadows and highlights.

Highlights & Shadows - Complete
highlights done - complete
That's done, it's a bit brighter, a little bit punchier. I'll make a few small contrast and curve adjustments, maybe a touch more of selective color (now that there is new color added), as a final tweak, sharpen, and done.

Ingredients of Medicine by Mike Savad
Ingredients of Medicine - by Mike Savad
Can be purchased as a print or a gift

Pharmacy - Apothecarius - by Mike Savad Doctor - Medical Kit - by Mike Savad Pharmacist - Constipated - by Mike Savad Pharmacist - Cough Syrup - by Mike Savad Pharmacist - Medicinal Equipment - by Mike Savad Pharmacy - So many drawers and bottles - by Mike Savad

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