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It's common to make photographs that have areas that need two different kinds of corrections. For example, if you shoot on a bright day and there is a lot of sky in the scene, you are likely get a result like this, with a foreground that is too dark and a sky that's slightly too light. Fortunately, Elements has the perfect feature to fix this kind of problem, and that is the Shadows/Highlights Adjustment. Before I apply a Shadows/Highlights Adjustment, I am going to make a copy of the photo layer, and that's because this is one of the few adjustments that I can't apply as an Adjustment layer. I have to apply it directly on the photo.
So I am going to go to the layers panel, where there is a single Background layer that contains the photo, and I am going to hold down the Ctrl key and click on that layer, or if I have a two button mouse, right-click on that layer and choose Duplicate layer from the contextual menu. I will click OK, and that makes a copy of the Background layer. I will make sure that Background Copy layer is selected and this will be the one that gets the Shadows/Highlights treatment, and I will be preserving my original image here on the Background layer. Now I will go to the Enhance menu at the top of the screen and I will go down to Adjust Lighting, and I will come over to Shadows/Highlights.
That opens the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, which I am going to bring up here, so you can see it better. There are three sliders here. By default, the Lighten Shadows slider sits at 25%, and what this is doing is lightening the darkest areas of the photo, the areas down here. If I uncheck Preview, you can see how the image looks without the shadows lightened. This is the original image, and this is the image with Lighten Shadows set to 25%.
If I want to I can lighten the shadows even more by dragging the Lighten Shadows slider to the right. When I did that, the dark areas got lighter, but there was very little impact on the highlights in the image, the sky, or the midtones, and that's the beauty of using the Shadows/Highlights Adjustment is that I can affect the lighting of the shadows, the highlights, and even the midtone separately. Now, the next thing I would like to do is to darken the highlights, make the sky a little darker, so that the clouds there are more dramatic.
To do that I will click on the Darken Highlights slider and I will drag to the right, and this is just a matter of taste. I might put this as far as maybe there. Finally, I can adjust the contrast in the midtones, by dragging the Midtone Contrast slider to the right, and this affects primarily the midtones in this area, the grass. Now I will compare this result with the original by going to the Preview checkbox and unchecking. So there is the original. As you can see your eye is drawn to the bright sky, which isn't really the subject of this photo.
But with the changes that I have made here, my eye is drawn more to the bicycle and the yellow flowers in the grass, which are set off nicely against the darkened, more dramatic sky. And because I like this result, I will click OK. The Shadows/Highlights Adjustment is a great tool to use on images like this that are backlit, but those aren't the only kinds of images that this control will help. It's also very useful if you have an image that you have taken with a flash on your camera, and the foreground is too bright but the background is too dark.
It also does a nice job on lots of images in between. So if you do have lighting problems, you might try the Shadows/Highlights Adjustment and see if they will improve your situation.
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