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Adjusting Color Temperature: the Photo Filter Adjustment Layer makes it quick, easy and nearly fool-proof!


Photoshop's Photo Filter Layer

One of the best kept secrets of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements is the Photo Filter. This little known gem is largely undiscovered because it's NOT in the filters menu... but rather in the Adjustment Layers menu. It acts like the traditional photo filters that many of you may be familiar with.

I recently had to scan some 220 snapshots for a video presentation ranging from the 1930s through present day. Many, many of the photos through the 1950s and 1960s had either gone blue due to age, or were originally shot using the original Kodak "technicolor" 120 film which is a little blue to begin with. It was a 3-day chore, but without the Photo Filter Adjustment Layer it would have probably taken 4 days.

I can best illustrate its use, however, in this CD cover and T-Shirt design I recently created for the group Gabby Haze. Here too, I was involved with a number of photos, all taken at different times with different cameras and media. Some in natural light, some in incandescent light. I also had to deal with one member of the group who was obviously sun-burned, and red-in-the-face to begin with. The challenge was to harmonize all the photos so they looked natural together while retaining their individual time and place character.


STEP Before & After: As you can see in the examples above, while the finished piece was certainly usable, and appealing, I sensed it was a little warm overall and I wanted to cool it down.

Most Photoshop books will lead you through a labyrinth of color cast elimination that takes a lot of figuring and fudging. With the Photo Filter I merely selected a new adjustment layer and selected one of the "cooling" filters. In the "old days" before adjustment layers I would simply generate a new layer and fill it with warm or cool color. But the only adjustment was opacity or blending modes.

STEP Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter Once the filter opens, it's fairly obvious where to go next.

STEP Using the Cooling Filter Select the Cooling Filter from the pop-up menu. While you're there, notice there are a number of other useful filters as well as solid color filters and even one you can configure yourself.

Selecting the Cooling filter brings you to the adjustment controls and by sliding the Density setting slider I could very quickly adjust to a more natural-looking tone.
STEP Preserve Luminosity is important to keep. You can turn it off to see the results.
STEP Toggle Preview to see the before and after. Then adjust density accordingly
STEP Test & Test each of the target filters to establish the most natural look. There are several warming filters and several cooling filters.
This beats the fourteen steps required to accomplish the same feat using other methods.


That left me with the dilemma of dealing with Dave. He is almost always red in the face, and a difficult shoot because the white hair and beard really reflects a lot of light contrasted against the blushy flesh tones. The cooling filter however brought him back to natural and away from the previously orange look.

The warming versions also make a good "Sepiatone" effect (?) for black and white photos, so keep that in mind as well.
* Finished cover design
* Finished cover design with the cooling filter

Next time you sense a little color shift is needed, think about the Photo Filter Adjustment Layer. It can trim off a lot of time, and gives a superbly natural look to photographs. You'll find the exact same Layer filter in Photoshop Elements since version 3 as well. Save minutes and improve the shot at the same time!

      Thanks for reading...

Fred Showker editor publisher

Editor / Publisher: Photoshop Tips & Tricks, DTG Magazine.




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