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Color Correction

So we have a photo with some brightness and contrast, but it looks like the subject overdosed on carrots.  Apparently the darkening and orange tone can be problems in poorly fixed tintypes.  I'll show you two ways to handle this.  The first way is my usual way of color correcting an image.  Unfortunately, in this case it did not work all that well, so I'll tell you how I cheated.

I usually use the Color Balance command in Picture Window to color correct images.   This is a very handy command, and a little different from what I am used to in other programs.  In this command, you choose what colors you would like to add and what you would like to remove for highlights, midtones, and shadows.  Highlights tend to give you the most dramatic color change, depending on the photo.  The following is a screenshot of using the Color Balance command on our photo.

On the left is our image as left at the end of the last page.  On the right is the output image.  The center dialog box shows the color balance command (note that it is being applied only to the masked area).  By clicking on the remove box, you can choose a color to remove.  In the background is the color picking screen that allows you to choose what color to remove.  A color probe is available for the color picker, so you can sample the orange highlights in the original, and the program will try to bring the highlights toward a neutral gray.  If you have an example of the right color tone for the photo (say another photo with that perfect hue), you can sample the dominant color to remove, and then sample the example photo for add color, to add in the new hue once subtracting the wrong tone has been removed.  I've done this on occasion for discolored photo album pages, although the same technique could be applied to the photograph itself.  For more on this see Case 3.

The problem with the above photo is that we do not have a very consistent hue and saturation in the orange cast.  Trying to color balance this photo can bring this out some.  I did some manipulation using the remove color until I found the most pleasing color cast, as shown in the following.

Note that there is still a distinct (though much  less overwhelming) orange-yellow cast to this.  If I sample the orange and try to remove all of it, I get a smattering of gray-orange and gray-blue (complement of orange if you look at the color wheel in the color picker above), with the variation in colors giving a grainy appearance.  The above is more orange, but gives a more uniformly pleasing tone (to my eye).   Interestingly, we can now start to more easily see that someone hand-tinted his cheeks on the original photo (alas, we are going to lose this momentarily, though I could electronically paint it back in).  This is essentially the image we went with for the genealogy website, but on further reflection for this tutorial, we decided to change this a little.

A well preserved tintype will have more of a neutral gray appearance than you see in the above photo.  So, we are going to cheat, and desaturate the tintype to provide a more neutral cast.  I used the Saturation command in Picture Window.  An alternative way to do this is with the Color Curves command (essentially providing the same controls for hue, saturation, and value as available on the brightness curve).   I've found the curves helpful in underwater photography, but we can get away with the simpler command here.  The following is a screen shot of the saturation command.

Again, the original image is on the left, and the output is on the right.  I used the command on the masked image, and the command is only applied to the tintype.  I reduced the saturation by 50%, essentially trying to create a primarily monochrome image with just a touch of yellow-brown cast to it.  The resulting image is shown below.

This image is more consistent with tintype images than the color balanced one, so we chose to go with this as the image to continue working on.  Notice that with the loss in saturation we have almost completely lost the hand-tinting in the cheeks, which we gave up to get the monochrome image.  If we had wanted, we could retint the cheeks (although I made the executive decision that this was straining my artistic talents to get it to a way that I liked it).

Next, we'll tune up the album page a bit, and then we will clean up the defects in the photo and the album.

 

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