A few more actions that ACR can achieve for this step are the famous Clarity, and Noise reduction (Luminance and Color). I think that ACR excels in the sharpening and clarity tools so I am going to use those two. This tutorial will not perform any more steps using ACR as moving on to photoshop tools will prove much more effective. So we adjust Clarity to a setting of +40 for the little bit of extra mid tone contrast it offers....
Step 9 - Adobe Camera Raw, Noise Reduction
...while in the Sharpnening tab we adjust luminance and color noise reduction levels to 30 and 50 with their details set to 50. Please note that you will adjust this in 100% zoom of the image as you can see noise and how luminance reduces it. Color noise reduction evens out the color in the image. Both those values are not exact, other images may need more or may need less.
Step 10 - Moving on to PS
Now is the time to open our image in Photoshop. This tutorial used Adobe Photoshop CS5. You can see a brief snap in my favorite layout, always keeping histograms open, as well as actions, history, info panel, layer, mask and adjustment tabs. Swatches is a handy as I always pick some color to do small tasks, like in this case I am using red to mark spots.
Step 11 - Curves
In photoshop we begin with a Curves. Our first goal is to have a proper white balance, in black and white points, since there are slight casts in this image. In order to have the black and white points adjusted, we must first see where are the most black and the most white point in the picture. We open a Curves adjustment tab. In the upper right corner we click on the drop down menu and select Show Clipping for Black/White Points.
Step 12 - Curves, black point
By the previous step we are now able to click and drag the black and white points and see where are those spots. First we perform in with the black point, while looking at the picture for the clipping point of black. I mark the blackest point in this picture by a red circle. Move the black point cursor back at it's initial place after you located the spot.
Step 13 - Curves, black point
Now select the black point from the curves adjustment tab and click on that spot. This affects all RGB values of that black point and evens them out, so that we make sure that our black is a true black and there are no color casts in it.
Step 14 - Curves, white point
We are going to perform this for the white point as well, exactly the same way as we did it for the black point. We must find the most white point in this picture. And there it shows clipping. Move the white point back and select the white point sampler.
Step 15 - Curves, white point
And click inside those bright clouds to bring an even white point in there.
Step 16 - Review
Review the work done by hiding view of the Curves adjustment from the Layers tab. This Curves method can actually apply to every image you open in Photoshop and is a very useful one, as it both selects the peak points for black and white, but in a way that they are even, securing both a good white balance in the image and a full histogram. As you may have noticed we did not use the grey sampler. We do not need to get a good grey point, as it is apparently located somewhere inside the clouds but it was a sunset, with the clouds having several red casts from the sun, but some blue ones as well from the sky. Selecting a grey point, could ruin some of those casts and hide the beauty of nature in this picture. Our purpose is to enhance it. Here is a before and after of the Curves adjustment. Our latest action brought more contrast in the image, a better white balance, since obviousely the above image has a red cast in it. By removing the cast we got some more vivid colors as well!