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Retouch a Damaged Photograph

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11. Additional water correction

Let's make an additional Photoshop correction to the water before we start with the last part of our tutorial.

Duplicate the Water copy layer by dragging and dropping its layer thumbnail onto the Create a new layer icon New Layer:

Duplicate layer


Change the name of this layer to Water depth, the blending mode to Screen (A) and the opacity to 10% (B):

Screen and opacity settings

This will make the water not only look lighter, but also less deep.

12. Selective sharpening

What do we mean by selective sharpening? Selective sharpening means that we don't sharpen the complete image but only particular areas. The thought behind it is this; we don't want to sharpen an area in which noise is hardly visible. Take for example shadows; we don't want to sharpen dark shadows with very few details with the risk of seeing a lot more noise in those areas after sharpening.

So we will only sharpen one particular area: the rocks, but not the dark shadows that are part of the rocks. Note that we're not going to sharp any of the existing layers, but only a merged copy of these layers (more about that later).

Let's start by clicking on the thumbnail (A) of layer Sky - Stock Image to make it the active layer, which will also make the layer visible again, so make sure that you click on the eye Visobility icon in of front of it (B) to make it invisible again:

Make layer active, but invisible


Click on the Create a new layer icon New Layer in the layers palette and rename the new layer to Merged layers.
Hold down Shift + Ctrl + Alt and press the letter E on your keyboard (Shift + Command + Option and E on the Mac) to merge all your visible layers onto this new layer. Remember this shortcut, it can often be quite handy.

Duplicate the Merged layers layer by dragging and dropping its layer thumbnail onto the Create a new layer icon New Layer:

Duplicate layer

Select in the menu the High Pass filter: Filter / Other / High Pass...
Select a Radius of about 1.5 pixels and click OK (use a slightly higher value if your image is larger than 800x600 pixels):

Settings for High Pass filter


Set the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light:

Soft Light blending mode


Notice that we've now sharpened the complete image. However we put a lot of effort into it to remove the noise in the sky, water and shadows, so let's add a mask that will ignore those areas.

The following steps are going to be a little complicated (sorry for that, there is no easier way) so make sure you pay attention. Keep an eye on the following screenshot while going through the next 9 steps:

Sequence for building selection

  1. Mask sure that you can see the bottom part of your layers palette
  2. Hold down the Ctrl key (Command key on the Mac)
  3. Click on the mask (A) of the Shadow noise layer and release the Ctrl key again.
  4. In the menu select: Select / Inverse (Or Ctrl + Shift + i or Command + Shift + i on the Mac).
  5. Hold down the Ctrl + Alt keys (Command + option keys on the Mac) and release them only when I tell you.
  6. Click on the mask (B) of the Water noise layer
  7. Click on the mask (C) of the Sky noise     layer
  8. Release the Ctrl + Alt keys (Command + Option keys on the Mac)
  9. Click on the create Add a layer mask icon Add Mask

Let sum it up what happened in those 9 steps:

  • We selected the dark shadows (step 3)
  • We inverted the selection so that we selected everything but the dark shadows (step 4)
  • We excluded the water from the selection (step 6)
  • We excluded the sky from the selection (step 7)
  • We saved our selection as a mask to the Merged Layers layer (step 9)

I've put this image together to give you an idea what's selected, in this case marked with red:

Selected area in red


Let's make our layers palette more organized by color coding the layers. Right click (Control + click on the Mac) on the eye icon Eye Icon in front of a layer:

Color layers in layers palette

Notice that you can select from 7 different colors. Use these colors to give your layers a color. Here's an example:

Colored layers in layers palette


We've reached the end of our tutorial, so let's have a look the final result, by moving your mouse cursor over the original image:


Important: Give your browser enough time to download the "after" image or you won't see any difference

Final image (before/after)

Final Words

Notice that my approach is just one of many different approaches one could use to solve the problems in this image and even I would probably do things slightly different next time. What is important to remember about this particular tutorial is:

  • calibrate your monitor
  • plan ahead before retouching an image
  • the strength and usefulness of layer masks
  • some things can only be done with shortcuts
  • not every image should be corrected with global corrections
  • keep your layers palette organized; name, color or groups layers

Also consider to read our article Digital Darkroom: considerations.

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial.


For more help with Photoshop check out ourPhotoshop Trainingsection.

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