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Sometimes you may have a photograph that has areas that need two different kinds of lighting corrections. If you shoot on a bright day, you're likely to get a result like this with a foreground that's a little bit too dark and a sky that's a little bit too light. This is a typical backlit image. Fortunately, Elements has the perfect tool to fix this kind of problem and that's the Shadows/Highlights adjustment. Before I apply a Shadows/Highlights adjustment I usually make a copy of the layer to which I'm applying the adjustment. And that's because this is one of the adjustments that I can't apply as an adjustment layer.
I have to apply it directly to the photo and I want to have one copy of the photo that is preserved in its original state. So I'm going to go to the Layers panel, and I'm going to right-click on that Background layer, the layer that contains the photo, and choose Duplicate Layer. And then I'll just click OK in the Duplicate Layer dialog box. I have the Background copy layer selected and so that's the one that will get the Shadows/Highlights treatment. Next, I'm going to go up to the Enhance menu and I'm going to go down to the Adjust Lighting category of direct adjustments, and over to Shadows/Highlights.
Here in the Shadows/Highlights dialog box there are three simple sliders. I'll set them all to their defaults to display the image in the document window as it was before I opened this dialog box. Now if I take that Lighten Shadows slider and I drag it over to the right, notice that as I do the darkest parts of the photo got lighter, this area in here. But the sky really wasn't affected much. I'm going to turn the Preview checkbox off for a moment so that you can see how the image was before lightening the shadows, and how it is after lighting the shadows.
Now I'm going to darken the highlights in the image. Most of the highlights are here in the sky, so that ought to darken that sky down and make it a little more dramatic. I'll drag the Darken Highlights slider to the right, and as I do I'm getting a lot more detail in those clouds as a result of darkening the highlights. There is also a Midtone Contrast slider here and that's used to adjust the midtones in between the brightest and the darkest tones. I'll try dragging that to the right and that does increase the contrast a bit here in the midtones in the grass.
Now I'll compare our before and after again by turning off the Preview checkbox, and that's where I started and then I'll turn on that Preview checkbox. And now my eye goes right to that bicycle, which is no longer too dark, and the bike is set off by the contrast in the grass and the dramatic sky. I'll click OK to apply the Shadows/ Highlights adjustment to that Background copy layer. A backlit photo like this isn't the only photo that will benefit from a Shadows/Highlights adjustment. It also comes in handy if you shoot with flash and you have a foreground element that's over-flashed or too bright and a background that's dark.
Give it a try on your own backlit and flash photos.
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