Photoshop Tools and Audio Controls

There exists an amazing parallel between the sciences of audio and photography; one that I learned about in the ’80 from personal experience. I owned a hybrid photo/litho production company in Nashville Tennessee from 1973-1986. This allowed me to enjoy both the creative and the production sides of the communications industry

.studer a800 Harrison_Console

I had contracts with Studer/Revox and Harrison Systems, the audio industry’s top tape machine and recording console manufacturers, designing and producing their print advertising materials. What I learned about audio processing during this period definitely improved my understanding of color image processing.

bass-treble  Multiband-EQ-Enabled

By watching sound studio engineers, I learned that shaping sound is very similar to shaping images. Think of bass as shadows and treble as highlights. A simple example of a parametric EQ is a treble/bass knob; a crude overall shifting of tones. The internal contrast of each (audio and photo) range clarifies detail and provides punch in both sound and sight. The distribution and emphasis of the middle tones in both sound and pictures is critical. Muddy sound is just as obvious as muddy pictures.

This is the same “crossover” principle used in the audio industry to clarify and boost deep bass sounds, separating them from the rest of the audio spectrum, can be applied to photographic ranges.

Levels control  Curves Tool

The difference between the Curves tool and the Levels tool closely reflects the functional differences between multi-band graphic equalizers and parametric equalizers. The beloved Histogram serves as a simplified (visual) Spectrum Analyzer.

There is a good reason why the word “color” is used to describe sound shaping in the audio industry as much as it is used in the photo industry. I gained a whole new view of photographic color and tonal shaping from from working inside sound studios. (I also now own a killer personal sound system.) I may share some of this insider info in another post series.

Dependence on the general contrast controls (Photoshop’s Levels dialog) and audio’s treble/base knob rarely produces real clarity. Next time you listen to music on a good audio system, think about these parallels. What you hear from a well-adjusted sound system will actually let you see this issue more clearly.

If you really want to understand to shape your color photos in Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to understand how to shape and contour the light. Follow this blog and you’ll start learning some pretty nifty ways to put the spunk and pop in your printed image.

And here’s another way I can help you. I’ve created a very entertaining and easy-to-understand video series that will teach you the Fundamentals of Color and Light. This series of nine instructional videos will get you on track to capture and produce amazing color.

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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