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Adjusting with Levels

From: Photoshop Elements 7 for Windows Essential Training

Video: Adjusting with Levels

When you are shooting a photo on an overcast day, you sometimes end up with a result like this. This image is flat, in other words, it doesn't have a wide enough range of tones. There are no bright whites and no dark darks. Most of the tones in this image are closed to middle gray. The best feature to adjust the lighting in this image is Levels. There are two places from which I could apply a Levels adjustment here, I could apply a direct adjustment from the Enhance menu coming down to Adjust Lighting and applying Levels from there. But that is not the best idea, because that would directly impact the single layer in this file. If I saved and closed the image and came back a month from now and wanted to adjust it again, I couldn't undo the adjustment.

Adjusting with Levels

When you are shooting a photo on an overcast day, you sometimes end up with a result like this. This image is flat, in other words, it doesn't have a wide enough range of tones. There are no bright whites and no dark darks. Most of the tones in this image are closed to middle gray. The best feature to adjust the lighting in this image is Levels. There are two places from which I could apply a Levels adjustment here, I could apply a direct adjustment from the Enhance menu coming down to Adjust Lighting and applying Levels from there. But that is not the best idea, because that would directly impact the single layer in this file. If I saved and closed the image and came back a month from now and wanted to adjust it again, I couldn't undo the adjustment.

Let me show a better way to apply a Levels adjustment as well as other kinds of photo adjustments here in Elements Full Edit workspace. I'm working with bookcliffs2.jpg from the 09_03_levels subfolder of the Chapter 09 exercise files. I'm going to come to the top of the Layers palette and click this black and white circle icon, from which I can add an adjustment layer. I'll choose Levels as the flavor of this adjustment layer, and that opens the Levels dialog box. I'm going to move that out of the way a bit, so that you can see that applying that adjustment layer command has also created a new layer in the file. This layer looks different than a regular layer. It has an adjustment symbol on the left and a layer mask on the right. Because I'm going to apply Levels in this adjustment layer, in the future I'll be able to throw the layer out or reopen it for reediting.

Now turn your attention to the Levels dialog box, how we move that over to the right now so that you can see the image. In the Levels dialog box, there is a graph. It's called a Histogram. This histogram represents all the possible tones in this image from the brightest brights on the right to the darkest darks on the left, and in between, the middle tones. This black hill in the middle represents the actual tones in this particular image. It tells us that all the tones here are clustered around the middle tones. There are no bright whites, there are no dark darks. But that's something that we can fix here in Levels.

To do that, I'm going to start with this white slider on the right and I'm going to drag it in toward that hill that represents the tones in this image. I'm going to drag it to just the beginning of the right side of the hill. Look at the difference in the image now. There are actually some light areas in the image. Now I'm going to take the black slider on the left and I'll drag it toward that hill of tones, and I'll stop when I reach just the beginning of that black hill. Now there is a dramatic difference in this image. It has bright whites, it has dark darks and has lots of tones in between.

I can tweak the results further by clicking on the gray slider and seeing want happens when I drag the to the right. That is increasing the contrast in the middle tones and that's too much. I'm going to go the other way. Actually I want to decrease the contrast in the middle tones just a bit to make it look more realistic. Now if I want to see the difference between the image as it was and as it is, I'll go to the Preview box and I'll click that check mark. That's where we started, that's where we ended. Quite a dramatic difference, isn't it? Now I'm going to click OK to apply this Levels adjustment.

Now let us say, later I change my mind and I want to tweak the adjustment a bit, I can go to the left hand thumbnail on the Levels 1 layer here, double click it and it reopens the Levels dialog box, where I can grab that gray slider, for example, and perhaps move that a bit more to the right to make the midtones have a bit more contrast and I'll click OK again. The other nice thing about using an adjustment layer to make my lighting adjustments and my color adjustments in Elements is, that all adjustment layers come with their own mask and I can use that mask to hide an adjustment from part of an image.

If I thought that this adjustment was too extreme for the foreground part of this image, I could limit the adjustment to just the sky by hiding the adjustment from the foreground and then I could apply a different adjustment to the foreground. So to hide this particular Levels adjustment from the foreground of this image, I'm going to go to the Toolbox, select the Brush tool and with black paint and a larger brush, which I'm increasing by pressing the bracket key on my keyboard, I'm just going to paint over the foreground. That protects the foreground from this Levels adjustment, and then I could apply a different adjustment that affected just the foreground and not the sky.

So if you have lighting problems with your photographs, be sure to give levels a try. It's a really powerful adjustment that can fix a lot of different lighting problems. When you apply this adjustment as well as other lighting and color adjustments, try to apply them using an adjustment layer rather that a direct adjustment.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Elements 7 for Windows Essential Training
Photoshop Elements 7 for Windows Essential Training

94 video lessons · 9069 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 9m 23s
    1. Welcome
      54s
    2. What is Photoshop Elements?
      6m 59s
    3. Using the example files
      1m 30s
  2. 22m 34s
    1. Understanding the Organizer's catalog system
      3m 17s
    2. Getting photos from files and folders
      5m 41s
    3. Getting photos from a digital camera
      7m 27s
    4. Getting photos from offline media
      3m 7s
    5. Getting photos from a scanner
      3m 2s
  3. 35m 0s
    1. Touring the Organizer interface
      5m 30s
    2. Viewing photos
      2m 19s
    3. Selecting photos
      1m 52s
    4. Rotating photos
      2m 7s
    5. Renaming photos
      1m 57s
    6. Fixing photo dates
      1m 56s
    7. Hiding and deleting photos
      4m 50s
    8. Stacking photos
      7m 33s
    9. Moving files
      4m 1s
    10. Backing up
      2m 55s
  4. 31m 50s
    1. Tagging photos
      8m 38s
    2. Finding photos by tags
      3m 57s
    3. Tagging face photos
      3m 1s
    4. Using albums and Smart Albums
      7m 43s
    5. Finding photos with Text Search
      3m 34s
    6. Finding photos from the Find menu
      2m 57s
    7. Finding photos in the Timeline
      2m 0s
  5. 16m 27s
    1. Reviewing photos in Full Screen view
      5m 28s
    2. Comparing photos
      4m 9s
    3. Using Date view
      2m 54s
    4. Using Map view
      3m 56s
  6. 33m 3s
    1. Automatically fixing photos in the Organizer
      7m 58s
    2. Semi-automatically fixing photos with Quick Fix
      10m 39s
    3. Using the Guided Edit mode
      4m 33s
    4. Fixing group shots automatically
      3m 44s
    5. Removing stray content with the Scene Cleaner
      6m 9s
  7. 57m 41s
    1. Touring the Full Edit interface
      4m 46s
    2. Opening a file
      2m 6s
    3. Creating a blank file
      4m 36s
    4. Using tools
      8m 5s
    5. Setting Edit preferences
      4m 31s
    6. Adjusting Color settings
      5m 18s
    7. Using the Undo History command
      3m 48s
    8. Zooming and navigating
      6m 7s
    9. Resizing photos and adjusting resolution
      8m 23s
    10. Enlarging the canvas
      3m 24s
    11. Saving files
      6m 37s
  8. 13m 36s
    1. Understanding layers
      4m 38s
    2. Working in the Layers palette
      4m 4s
    3. Using layer masks
      4m 54s
  9. 17m 50s
    1. Understanding selections
      1m 15s
    2. Manual selection tools
      6m 20s
    3. Automatic selection tools
      6m 25s
    4. Modifying and saving selections
      3m 50s
  10. 40m 53s
    1. Straightening and cropping
      2m 46s
    2. Using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment
      2m 41s
    3. Adjusting with Levels
      5m 0s
    4. Adjusting with Hue/Saturation
      3m 14s
    5. Using Color Curves
      4m 44s
    6. Removing a color cast
      4m 9s
    7. Correcting skin tone
      2m 20s
    8. Reducing digital noise
      2m 47s
    9. Sharpening photos
      6m 27s
    10. Editing raw photos
      6m 45s
  11. 25m 21s
    1. Using the new Smart Brush tool
      5m 50s
    2. Using the Smart Brush Detail tool
      3m 13s
    3. Dodging and burning
      1m 58s
    4. Healing wrinkles and blemishes
      3m 51s
    5. Removing content
      2m 9s
    6. Using the Red Eye tool
      1m 11s
    7. Using the Whiten Teeth tool
      1m 48s
    8. Using the Blue Skies Tool
      1m 28s
    9. Using the Black/White tool
      1m 13s
    10. Converting color to black and white
      2m 40s
  12. 22m 10s
    1. Applying filters
      6m 21s
    2. Applying effects
      3m 53s
    3. Using layer styles
      5m 13s
    4. Using shapes
      4m 49s
    5. Using the Cookie Cutter tool
      1m 54s
  13. 7m 34s
    1. Creating text
      4m 6s
    2. Editing text
      1m 58s
    3. Warping text
      1m 30s
  14. 38m 38s
    1. Making a photo book
      10m 0s
    2. Making a photo collage
      8m 10s
    3. Creating a slideshow
      10m 11s
    4. Making a panorama
      3m 50s
    5. Preparing images for the web
      4m 6s
    6. Using automated actions
      2m 21s
  15. 9m 50s
    1. Using email and Photo Mail
      4m 42s
    2. Printing your photos
      2m 55s
    3. Using Quick Share
      2m 13s
  16. 19m 17s
    1. Signing up for Photoshop.com
      3m 33s
    2. Viewing and sharing your photos online
      6m 0s
    3. Backing up and synchronizing albums online
      6m 28s
    4. Accessing ongoing inspiration from Adobe.com
      3m 16s
  17. 36s
    1. Goodbye
      36s

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