Tonality Protection and Levels & Curves
This is the 7th in a series of Silver Efex Pro 2 posts. Previously
- Overview & Interface
- Image Preview Options
- Global Brightness Adjustments
- Global Contrast Adjustments
- Global Structure Adjustments
This post is the 4th & final covering SEP 2 Global Adjustments. In the SEP 2 default screen view shown below (click to enlarge), Global Adjustment are found at the top of the right hand column labeled #5 (there are several other type of adjustments in this same column and they’ll be covered in subsequent posts).
The image below is section #5 (SEP 2 Adjustments) from the above interface screen shot – after expanding the Global Adjustment section. There are five adjustment sections in total (global, selective, color filter, film type, & finishing). This post will concentrate one part of the Global Adjustments (the rest will follow in later posts).
There are three major global adjustments – Brightness, Contrast, and Structure. In addition you’ll note an item labeled Tonality Protection. Lastly, as in HDR Efex Pro, an absolutely critical Global Adjustment – Levels & Curves – is located under the Adjustment section labeled Film Types. So we have 5 global adjustment to tinker with –
- Tonality Protection
- Levels & Curves
Each of these will be considered in turn. Here we’ll look at the final two items listed above.
If you use the default Preset (000 – Neutral) you can see in the above screen shot that every SEP 2 adjustment is set to ZERO or OFF as discussed in the Preset post.
This post will use the following image for illustration. The starting Preset is SEP 2’s default.
The histogram in the above screen shot’s lower right corner shows that the image’s tones are well contained within the camera’s dynamic range – no blown highlights and no blocked shadows. However, what if that weren’t so? What if we blew the exposure and over or under exposed the shot? This is where the SEP 2 Global Adjustment, Tonality Protection, might help.
Unlike the first three Global Adjustments which can be expanded to show more options, with Tonality Protection what you see is what you get. Shadows attempts to recover detail in dark tonal areas. Highlights attempts to recover lost detail in blown out areas. Each has a slider that provides adjustments from 0-100%. Just as in any similar feature in any other program, if there was no detail to begin with when you captured the image, Tonality Protection isn’t Black (& White) Magic – if you captured no detail, there will be no detail in your final image, period.
Since we’re looking at GLOBAL Adjustments, any adjustments made here are applied to the ENTIRE image (globally). If you want to adjust just a part of an image then GLOBAL isn’t what you want (tune in for Selective Adjustments in a later post).
The next set of side by side comparisons illustrate the effect of each of these sliders. Click any image to enlarge.
Underexposure Tonality Protection
Suppose we underexposed our image at capture and ended up with the image on the right as opposed to what we wanted (left). Note the tonality differences shown in the associated histograms.
Next let’s see what the Shadows Tonal Protection does for us by increasing it from 0 (left) to 100% (right).
Wow – not much change! What’s going on here? Well, as seen in the o% histogram there were few if any shadow with no detail at all (i.e., totally blocked – black). The +100 Shadows histogram shows a slight shift toward brighter tones but nothing more. The message is that the shadow protection will have some effect, but usually not much. Maybe that’s why it’s at the bottom of the Global Adjustments list. 😉
Some viewers may prefer this darker version to my starting image. That’s fine, but the original is what I saw in mid-afternoon on what had actually been a sunny winter day on this frozen lake – until a freak fog arose.
Is all lost if you found yourself in SEP 2 with this underexposed image and wanted to turn it into something closer to my original? Absolutely not, but Shadows alone isn’t going to get you there. Here’s another side by side. The original is on the left and an adjusted version of the underexposed image is on the right. The adjustments were done entirely with the first three Global Adjustments covered in this series – Brightness, Contrast, and Structure (as shown by the non-zero slider settings in this screen shot). Note that the histograms are nearly identical.
In the interest of saving time (mine & yours) I won’t go through the same exercise for the Highlights half of the Tonality Protection duo. The story is much the same.
Levels and Curves
Buried far down in the Adjustments Window is an absolutely essential Global Adjustment which makes profound changes to an entire (globally) image. This is the Levels and Curves adjustment which is a bread and butter element of any image editing program worth its salt. In SEP 2 (and in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro) it can be found only if you look hard – or by accident. It’s located under the adjustment section name Film Types. If that weren’t obscure enough, you have to do two clicks to get to it.
Click #1 to open the Film Types window –
And Click #2 to show the Level & Curves details –
Your friend Google has lots of Levels and Curves tutorials since the feature is found in almost every image editing program – I won’t to repeat that information. Instead, here are a few examples of what SEP 2’s Levels & Curves can do to our example image.
A typical “High Contrast Curve” (before|after)
The opposite of the above – Low Contrast
My version of a SEP 1 preset called Antique Solarization (not included in SEP 2 thus far in the beta, but may show up before the release)
Actually, the SEP version included a fancy border. Below is the above image with a border added, courtesy of the SEP 2 Finish Adjustment section which will be covered in a later post.
The use of Levels & Curves to produce “far out” images such as the above solarization effects isn’t limited to B&W and illustrated in this previous post on Extreme Curves Adjustments.
This completes our tour of SEP 2 Global Adjustments – That’s all folks….. 😉
Next in this series – Selective Adjustments