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In Photoshop Elements 9 Essential Training, Jan Kabili highlights the key features of this comprehensive image organization and photo enhancement application. She shows how to correct and enhance photographs, and how to organize a growing collection of digital photos. The course also explains how to use photos in creative projects like photo books, calendars, and greeting cards, and how to share work online and in print. Exercise files accompany the course.
You can quickly adjust the lighting, specifically the brightness and contrast in your photos here in the Quick Fix workspace. Brightness of course means, how light or dark an image is. So this image is relatively dark. Contrast is the degree of difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an image. Generally you're aiming to have bright whites with image detail and dark shadows with image detail and a full range of gray tones in between, and that isn't what I have in this image. So I'd like to fix its brightness and its contrast. I'll go over to the panel of controls on the right and there I could try Smart Fix.
Smart Fix as you've seen in earlier movies, tries to just not only brightness and contrast, but also color. So I could try dragging the fix slider and see how it works, it's not too bad on this image, but I would like to give some of the more specific lighting controls a try. So I'm going to click the x to cancel the Smart Fix adjustment, and instead, I'll come down to the Lighting area if this area isn't showing, you can click the arrow to its left to expand it. In this area there are two auto controls, Levels and Contrast, and then there are these three sliders for adjusting Shadows, Midtones and Highlights.
Let's start with the Levels Auto control. Levels can correct both the contrast and the brightness of an image. If I click the Auto button, Elements analyzes the image and what it has done, is attempt to make the brightest tones in the image as light as possible, and the darkest tones in the image darker, and to redistribute the Midtones across the tonal range, but at the same time as levels often does, it introduced a color cast to the image that I don't want. Here it introduced a bluish cast, which you can see most clearly in the white paint on the mailbox.
In a case like this, I'd like to try Auto Contrast instead of Auto Levels, because Auto Contrast acts on the tones in the image, the same way that levels does, but doesn't introduce a color cast. So I'm going to undo my levels adjustment by clicking the Undo button at the top of the screen, and then I'll go down to the lighting section, and click the Auto button to the right of Contrast, and that does a much better job of increasing the contrast in the image, making the whites whiter and the dark areas darker, and expanding the Midtones, but it hasn't introduced to color cast.
Now let's take a look at the next three sliders here in the lighting area, these give you the most control over lighting adjustments, because they let you manually adjust the dark tones, the light tones and the midtones in the image all separately. These sliders can be used after applying one of the auto adjustments or on their own. I'm going to open another image to show you these sliders, double-clicking it here in the Project Bin. When I took this photo the sun was behind the scene, in a backlit situation like this it's typical to get the foreground too dark as it is here.
At the same time the clouds are too bright, so we can't see the detail in the clouds, and the middle tones in the forest are a little flat and dull. I could fix all those problems with the three sliders in the lighting area of Quick Fix. If I drag the shadow slider to the right, I'll be able to lighten up the dark areas, so we can see more detail there. And if I drag in midtone slider to the right, that increases the contrast in the middle tones, giving a little more pop to these trees, and if I drag the Highlight slider to the right, that darkens the brightest areas of the photo, the clouds, so they're no longer completely blown out.
To see the difference between the image with these changes and without, I'll go down View menu and I'm going to choose Before and After Horizontal. And I'll zoom out so the image fits in the Windows by going up to the Options bar for the hand tool or the zoom tool, and clicking Fit Screen. So you can see that I really was able to improve the lighting quite a bit, by just quickly dragging those three sliders in the after version of the image, let's compare to the before version.
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