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With this movie I would like to show you how to balance contrast and color in your images by applying a Levels adjustment. I'm currently in the Bridge application and I'm viewing our exercise files folders here in the Content panel. I would like to scroll down to the Chapter 10 folder. Double-click on that, and then double-click on the Levels folder. I'm going to double-click on this image. Enzo in laundry basket. Open this up. Now we obviously have a very, very dark image, desperately in need of some lighting adjustments. One way to do that is to apply a levels adjustment. I would like to show you how to do that now. So we will go under the Enhance menu. Go under Adjust Lighting. We can choose levels. However in keeping with my method of working nondestructively using the Layers palette, I think I would rather do this using an adjustment layer. It's great that we have that option.
I would like to show you. Down here in the Layers palette I'm instead going to click on the Adjustment Layer menu here and choose Levels. So now we're working with an adjustment layer, which allows us to change our adjustments on the fly any time as long as we save this image as a layered file as a PSD or a TIFF or a Photoshop PDF, but more likely layered PSD. That's the more common option. We can always reopen this file and make adjustments to this adjustment layers. That's why it's an adjustment layer. It's great. What I'm going to do now is show you how this dialog box works, because this is sort of a scary prospect here. When you see this thing in the middle, this is called a Histogram. This is giving us information about our image.
Over on the left we have our darks, our shadow areas. After the right of the histogram we have information about our highlights. Then in the middle we have information about our midtones in the image. Everything in between is the shadows and the highlights. There are 256 levels of brightness here in an image. From 0 to 255. If you count 0 as a number, that adds up to 256. So that's why we have this here and that's why it is 255 instead of 256.
That's what we're working with here. The height of the histogram is showing us how much or how many pixels we have in the shadow or the highlight or the midtones area in your image. So notice that the height of this histogram is very high over here on the left side. Knowing that these are our shadows, that's telling us that we have a lot of dark areas in this image. Now we already knew that. We can tell that just by looking at the image. But that's what the histogram is also telling us. That's also telling us that we have lots of detail getting lost in this image in the shadow areas. We know that this is slammed up to the left.
When you see something slammed up to the left in the histogram that means you're losing detail somewhere in the image. In this instance it's in the shadows. However, if we had an image that had blown out highlights, this is slammed up to the right. That would mean that we would be losing detail in the highlight areas. So what we do to fix this? One thing that we can do is we can increase contrast by moving the highlight slider over to the right in order to the meet up with the end of the histogram. I'm going to go ahead and do that now. Drag that over to the left. That's going to lighten up the image some, because we're changing the tonal range of the image when we do that. Dragging it over to the left.
Now doing that is the same as clicking on the Auto Contrast button in Quick Fix Mode. It's the same sort of thing. Something else that we can do that might have more of an effect on our color although since there is not that much color in this image, probably you won't see a huge difference, but something else we can do is click on the Auto button. If I click on the Auto button, and go ahead and do that now, it's going to go into the individual channels of the image and make it automatic adjustment for us. That's stretching the tonal range of the image overall. So Red, Green, and Blue channels. All these images that we're working with are RGB images meaning they are made up of three channels, Red, Green, and Blue.
When we click on the Auto button, it goes into each individual channel and stretches the tonal range, so that we have a much better looking photograph. You could see a lot more detail now. It's still not perfect, but it's better than what we had. Now, that's the same as clicking on the Auto Levels button in Quick Fix Mode. Same concept. Now if we turn the Preview option on and off, you can see there is the before and here is the after. So at the very least, at least we can see a lot more of the detail in the forefront object, and that's my son Enzo.
I'm not seeing any of the detail in the background. Nothing back here and I'm losing a lot on his hair. I don't mind not seeing the imagery in the background. That's okay. That's important to the photograph. Enzo is important to the photograph. I would like to see a little bit more detail in his hair and maybe if we can reveal some in these midtones areas in the front of the image. So let's go ahead and take a look at our Gamma slider, which is actually at the center of the Histogram here. This allows us to apply midtone adjustments. We can lighten our midtones by dragging to the left or darken by dragging to the right. We obviously don't want to darken.
So we're going to go ahead and drag to the left and just do it slowly and use our Preview option and take a look at what's happening here to our image. You don't want to drag too far. If we start drag too far these are going to start to look unnatural as you can see here. Then we're going to start to just really lose more and more detail and add noise in the process as you can see. So we want to use with discretion. Just drag enough to reveal some more of the detail down here on the forefront area and in his hair. Again, it doesn't really matter that we can't see the stuff back here. That's all background. What we're focusing on is Enzo and his face and all this forefront stuff. Him in the laundry basket. So what we did here is we applied an Auto Level adjustment that went into the individual channels and stretched out our tonal range and helped us reveal detail on the image.
We then lightened up our midtones just a bit, so that we can see more of the detail in the midtone areas. That helped us right up here with his hair. So now we have a much better photograph. Let's take a look again at the before and after. There is the before, there is the after. It's a huge improvement. The great thing is this is an adjustment layer. I can click OK. We can also see the before and after this way. There is without the adjustment layer. There is with the adjustment layer. But we haven't harmed any pixels in here. Nothing has been permanently changed. Everything is exactly the same as it was we're using an adjustment layer. That's a great, great way to work.
If we wanted to, we can re-access that dialog box by double-clicking on the icon and making a change. If we think we went a little too far with the midtone adjustment, maybe bring it back a little bit. Click OK. That's the beauty of working with adjustment layers. So that is how you can use Levels in order to repair the lighting in an image like this one specially when it's really, really dark like we saw here.
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