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Balancing contrast and color with Levels adjustments

From: Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac Essential Training

Video: Balancing contrast and color with Levels adjustments

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.

Balancing contrast and color with Levels adjustments

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac Essential Training
Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac Essential Training

84 video lessons · 5421 viewers

Ted LoCascio
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2m 22s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. Using the example files
      1m 20s
  2. 12m 1s
    1. Understanding Photoshop Elements
      2m 10s
    2. Using the Welcome screen
      2m 33s
    3. Importing photos from a digital camera
      7m 18s
  3. 1h 1m
    1. Viewing and selecting images
      2m 1s
    2. Creating and saving a custom workspace
      5m 29s
    3. Rotating images in Bridge
      3m 20s
    4. Renaming images in Bridge
      5m 34s
    5. Adding keywords to images
      7m 38s
    6. Applying ratings to images
      5m 17s
    7. Labeling images
      5m 17s
    8. Searching for images
      6m 38s
    9. Creating Collections
      2m 50s
    10. Sorting images with the Filter panel
      6m 36s
    11. Using image stacks
      7m 2s
    12. Hiding images
      4m 6s
  4. 31m 55s
    1. Opening images from Bridge
      2m 24s
    2. Working with palettes and the Palette Bin
      4m 53s
    3. Using the Project Bin
      6m 44s
    4. Zooming and scrolling
      8m 1s
    5. Fixing mistakes with Undo and Redo
      5m 3s
    6. Saving versions
      4m 50s
  5. 49m 38s
    1. Opening and viewing images in the Quick Fix mode
      6m 8s
    2. Understanding Auto Color and making tonal adjustments
      8m 50s
    3. Using the Lighting sliders
      5m 19s
    4. Using the Color sliders
      7m 1s
    5. Applying Auto Red Eye Fix
      3m 31s
    6. Applying Auto Sharpen
      4m 25s
    7. Using the Guided Edit mode
      6m 19s
    8. Processing multiple files
      8m 5s
  6. 10m 22s
    1. Understanding image resolution
      3m 23s
    2. Resizing images
      6m 59s
  7. 17m 8s
    1. Applying Auto Crop and Auto Straighten
      6m 22s
    2. Using the Straighten and Crop tools
      4m 10s
    3. Changing the canvas size
      6m 36s
  8. 30m 32s
    1. Why make selections?
      6m 3s
    2. Using the Quick Selection tool
      8m 37s
    3. Using Refine Edge
      7m 15s
    4. Saving and loading selections
      8m 37s
  9. 25m 58s
    1. Working with the Layers palette
      9m 45s
    2. Using adjustment layers and masks
      8m 37s
    3. Applying transparency and blend mode adjustments
      7m 36s
  10. 40m 56s
    1. Removing a color cast
      5m 53s
    2. Correcting skin tone
      3m 38s
    3. Enhancing color with Hue/Saturation adjustments
      6m 37s
    4. Balancing contrast and color with Levels adjustments
      7m 10s
    5. Correcting dark or light areas with Shadow/Highlight Adjustments
      5m 17s
    6. Improving images with Color Curves adjustments
      5m 55s
    7. Converting color images to black and white
      6m 26s
  11. 54m 14s
    1. Using the Red-Eye Removal tool
      8m 1s
    2. Using the healing tools
      7m 42s
    3. Whitening teeth and eyes
      6m 20s
    4. Cloning to remove contents
      8m 14s
    5. Adjusting perspective and correcting camera distortion
      6m 10s
    6. Using Photomerge Group Shot
      6m 17s
    7. Using Photomerge Faces
      6m 4s
    8. Using Photomerge Panorama
      5m 26s
  12. 16m 1s
    1. Creating a clipping mask
      7m 25s
    2. Creating collages with gradient blending
      8m 36s
  13. 22m 15s
    1. Reducing noise
      8m 7s
    2. Sharpening with Unsharp Mask
      7m 16s
    3. Sharpening with Adjust Sharpness
      6m 52s
  14. 17m 54s
    1. Understanding Camera Raw
      1m 46s
    2. Opening Camera Raw images from Bridge
      6m 37s
    3. Applying tonal and color adjustments in Camera Raw
      6m 23s
    4. Saving raw images
      3m 8s
  15. 40m 41s
    1. Painting with the Filter Gallery
      8m 7s
    2. Creating a pencil sketch
      7m 40s
    3. Customizing images
      7m 59s
    4. Adding artwork with the Content palette
      9m 39s
    5. Building and saving a multi-page photo creation
      7m 16s
  16. 37m 5s
    1. Creating a slideshow
      6m 58s
    2. Creating a photo book
      9m 1s
    3. Creating a photo collage
      6m 58s
    4. Creating a greeting card
      6m 31s
    5. Creating a web photo gallery
      7m 37s
  17. 31m 6s
    1. Choosing color settings
      7m 1s
    2. Printing to an inkjet printer
      8m 13s
    3. Using Picture Package
      4m 33s
    4. Saving for the web
      5m 55s
    5. Attaching images to emails
      3m 6s
    6. Burning to CDs and DVDs
      2m 18s
  18. 56s
    1. Goodbye
      56s

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