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When you're trying to adjust the tonal values or the lighting in a photo, here in the quick edit workspace give the levels adjustment and the exposure adjustment a try. In this case I think I have a photo that's too dark and it's lacking in contrast. In other words there's not enough difference between the shadows, the highlights and the mid tone tonal values. So I'm going to start with a levels adjustment, by clicking Levels in the Adjustments column in the Quick Edit workspace. Here, I have control over the highlights, or the bright areas, the shadows, or the dark areas, and the midtone ares of the photo, all separately.
I'm going to start by adjusting the shadow areas. To do that, I'll click the Shadows tab here in the Levels panel. And then I can use the preview thumbnails, or the slider, to make the dark areas of the photo brighter so we can see more detail there. One way to do that is just to drag this slider over to the right. Another way is to use the preview thumbnails. You'll remember that the thumbnail with the white curved arrow is the way that the shadows looked in the original. If I hover over these other thumbnails that changes the value of the shadow's adjustment on the image.
So, I'll get to a value that I think looks good and I'll click there. By the way, if you're following along please don't feel that you have to use the same values that I am. You can see the values right here to the right of the slider. You may find that different values look better on your screen, because your monitor is calibrated differently than mine. Now that I've opened up the shadows so we can see more detail, for example, in this area of the photo, I'll work on the mid tones. I'll click on the Midtones tab in the Levels panel. I see that the central thumbnail is the one with the white arrow; this is the baseline.
If I hover over the thumbnails to the left and above that, you can see that the photo looks rather strange. It's way too flat. There's not enough contrast in the midtones. But if I go to the right of that baseline thumbnail, then I'm starting to add more contrast in the mid tones. I'll choose a value that I think looks good. Perhaps there. And then I'll go the Highlights tab in the Levels panel. I could use the thumbnails or I can just drag the highlights slider to the right. As I drag this slider to the right, I'm making the brightest parts of the image darker.
And you can really see that in the sky in this photo. Now, obviously, that's too dark. So I'm going to head back over in the other direction until I find a value that looks good to me, that's darkening down the highlights enough that we see detail there, but not making the photo way too dark overall. Now that I've adjusted the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights separately, I am going to close the Levels panel. And I think that the photo needs something more. I think it needs a bit of brightness over all, so for that I am going to go to the Exposure adjustment, clicking exposure to open its panel.
To brighten up the photo overall I will drag the exposure slider over to the right just slightly, maybe about that far. Notice if I go much further than that I end up blowing out the highlights. In other words losing detail in the brightest parts of the photo. So again to take this back to the beginning, I will click on the thumbnail with the curved arrow and then I am going to drag the slider just slightly to the right. And then I'll click the Exposure adjustment. When you're making tonal adjustments like this, it can be difficult to evaluate the results. And I think one of the best ways to see what you've got is to compare it to the original.
So, I'm going to go up to the View menu, and change it from its default of After Only, to Before and After. And to get more room to compare the two photos I am going to close the Adjustments column on the right by clicking the Adjustments button at the bottom of the editor. So here you can see the original on the left. It's dark and rather dull and on the right we have an image with more contrast and obviously brighter, and here we can see more of the detail in the highlights as well as in the shadows of the photograph. So you can see that there's a lot you can do using a levels adjustment and/or an exposure adjustment to correct tonal values in the Quick Edit workspace.
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