Image Tonality and the Histogram- Part Six: The Phoenix Scenario

PhoenixIn Greek mythology the Pheonix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn from apparent oblivion. In this sense, any digital image capture that is apparently “dead” by all appearance can have life breathed into it by powerful image editing software.

Original Image Histogram

Original Image Histogram

Such is the case with this image captured during an overcast day in Kailua Hawaii. Absolutely no detail can be seen in this JPEG image; all appears hopeless. A reject, right?

Not so fast, quickdraw! We’re here to raise the dead, remember? While nothing can replace the correct exposure, don’t throw in the towel on an image that looks too dark until you’ve tried this magic collection of tone tools.

Kailua Ranch Before Whether the image is captured in jpeg, tiff, or raw format, it can be opened in either of Adobe’s raw interpreter packages, Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Within either of these packages, both chrominance and luminance controls are provided that allow the user to rearrange tones and shape images extensively.

Lightroom Controls

Camera Raw ControlsTo open a tiff or jpeg file in Camera Raw, you must first locate the file in Adobe Bridge, right click on the file and choose “Open in Camera Raw…” You can open these files in Lightroom either internally or by dragging the file onto the LR icon in the dock.

The image pictured above was seriously underexposed and appeared to be hoplessly dark. But when the image was opened in both CR and LR software packages, and the same adjustments were made, identical results were achieved.

Note: the histogram in the CR panel (left) show the results of the Basic dialog adjustments while the histogram in the LR panel (right) shows the result of Basic and Tone Curve adjustments.

Notice that both software packages offer virtually identical tools to shape and reconstruct the image.

Kailua Ranch AfterYep, this is the same JPEG image pictured above after the adjustments to all three tone range points and all three internal contrast ranges. Keep in mind that this was a very overcast day, and I intended to keep it that way! One of the biggest mistakes made in image adjustments is to assume that all images look best when the highlights and middle tones are automatically brightened up. That’s a rookie mistake. You’re no rookie.

Your challenge in image editing is to make the image portray the emotion of the scene the way your eyes saw it. Mood is a wonderful expression that shouldn’t be sacrificed to an Auto-anything button! Save the image but don’t loose the mood in the process. Hrrumph!

I go into seriously more detail on how this was done and the interplay between the tools that affect the six tone regions and points in the Digital Image book, but you get the idea.

This series has been a small excerpt from my soon to be released book titled The Digital Image: From Capture to Presentation and Everywhere In-between. If you find this series helpful, you’ll love the book.

That’s the way eye sees it. Feel free to leave a comment and keep the conversation going. If you saw this post listed on a LI group page, add a comment to the listing in that group! Thanks for joining me. If you like this blog, let me know and tell your friends.

This is the last entry of the spooky series called Image Tonality and the Histogram. I hope you’ve learned a little something extra about the mystogram. I highly recommend that you join the followers of this blog to learn more about imaging. Sign in now as a follower (top right of this page). Don’t forget, good followers usually make great leaders.

See you next time, Herb

PS. if you have an iPad and are interested in learning about more about the fundamentals of digital photography, I suggest that you take a look at my Accurate Color iBook in the iTunes Store

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook "Digital Color Photography: A Deeper Look" from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color Fundamentals video series at
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14 Responses to Image Tonality and the Histogram- Part Six: The Phoenix Scenario

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