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I think one of the most useful adjustments in the Elements 9 Full Edit workspace is the Shadow/Highlights adjustment. It's really useful in a situation like this, where I need to treat the Shadows and the Highlights separately. I'd like to open up the Shadows and bring down the Highlights to see some of the detail in both. To open this adjustment, I'll go to the Enhance menu at the top of the screen and I'll choose Adjust Lighting and from there Shadows/Highlights. In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, there are three simple sliders, one for lightening shadows, one for darkening highlights, and then a third slider for adjusting the contrast of the midtones, the tones in between the brightest and darkest in the image.
When this dialog box opens, it automatically sets the Lighten Shadows slider to a 25% increase and you can already see a difference in the image. The dark foreground is lighter. To remind you of how this looked a second ago, I'll uncheck the Preview check box. So there is the original photo and here it is with just the default settings in the Shadows/Highlights dialog box. I want to open up the foreground further, so that I can see more detail there. So, I'm going to take that Lighten Shadows slider and I'm going to drag it way over.
Now, this is a really extreme example. I don't always go this far over with Lighten Shadows. I still think the foreground looks a little dull. So, I'm going to go down to the Midtone Contrast slider and I'm going to increase that. And that increases the Contrast or the difference between the tones, particularly there in the foreground where there are lots of middle tones. Now, I want to approach that big white cloud. I remember it as being very dramatic. So I would like to bring back some of the midtones and shadows in the Highlight areas, and to do that, I'll go to the second slider, the Darken Highlights slider, and I'll drag that over to the right.
I think that gives the cloud a lot more impact. I'll go back to the preview check box and I'll uncheck it again to remind you that this is the original photo, and this is where I ended up with just a few simple sliders. The Shadow/Highlights adjustment isn't just useful for extremely backlit photos like this one. It also is very useful when you've over- flashed a subject, so that the subject is too light and the background too dark. And I found that it often comes in handy for lots of photos, not just those that are as extreme as this one.
Unfortunately, the Shadows/Highlights adjustment is a direct adjustment. It does change the image layer, and it's not available as a separate adjustment layer. So, if you want to protect your original photo, you may want to make a copy of your image layer before applying the Shadow/Highlights adjustment.
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