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Quickly Correcting Car Photography Colors with Adobe Photoshop

There is perhaps no photographic subject in which the photographer will encounter a wider range of vivid, non-natural colors than car photography. When photographing cars and trucks, one must expect to be faced with everything from bright metallic pinks and oranges to blues and greens so deep they’re practically black. And besides the atypical colors themselves, photographers area also faced with diverse surfaces like rubber and chrome, as well as a variety of unusual lighting sources and backgrounds. (An automobile photographer may have to shoot a muddy 4×4 out on the trail in the morning and a new sports car in a showroom with fluorescent lighting that same afternoon.)
Thankfully for those who dabble in car photography, there is a quick way to spruce up color and lighting levels using the popular image editing software Adobe Photoshop. Although there is no substitute for an in-depth knowledge of automobile photography and digital image editing, these quick tricks can work wonders for turning lackluster shots into perfectly decent photos.

The first step is to load the image that needs correcting into Photoshop. (This is done using the “File” menu and the “Open” command, then locating the image on the camera, memory card, or hard drive.)

After the image has been loaded, the user single-clicks on the “Image” menu to open the list of Image options. Within the “Adjust” sub-menu, there are two tools called “Auto Levels” and “Auto Contrast.” Those are the secret weapons that can be used to quickly correct color levels in tricky car photos.

“Auto Levels” reads various pieces of information within the image and uses that information to estimate the optimum color levels. After making these estimates, the software adjusts the image accordingly. Often times, this results in pictures that are more vivid, more natural, and simply more professional looking. To make these adjustments manually, the user would have to access the “Color Balance…” tool within the “Adjust” menu. The problem with that approach is that there are no automatic or user friendly features within the “Color Balance…” tool. Its use requires an advanced knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and digital image processing techniques.

Similarly, the “Auto Contrast” feature automatically adjusts the photograph’s lighting to achieve a software-defined optimum contrast level. This can be done manually using the “Brightness/Contrast…” tool. Again, beginners may find manual adjustments very difficult, often to the point that they make their previously-mediocre pictures look even worse when they try manually editing the brightness and contrast levels.

After using the “Auto Levels” or “Auto Contrast” feature, its important for the user to open a saved version of the photograph for comparison. The “Auto” features don’t always help, and the human eye should always be trusted over the computer’s opinion. As with any form of automatic image processing, it’s possible for mistakes to occur.

Those with advanced car photography skills (or advanced Adobe Photoshop skills) won’t find much use for the “Auto Levels” and “Auto Contrast” features of Photoshop. But for beginners in the field of car photography (or those looking for an ultra quick fix for minor color and contrast issues) Adobe Photoshop’s “Auto Levels” and “Auto Contrast” features can be an extremely valuable resource.

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