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It's common to make photographs that have areas that need two different corrections. For example, if you shoot on a bright day, you are likely to get a result like this, with a foreground that is underexposed and a sky that is slightly overexposed. Fortunately, Elements has the perfect tool to fix this kind of problem and that is the Shadow/Highlight adjustment. Before I apply a Shadow/Highlight adjustment, I would like to make a copy of the layer to which I'm applying the adjustment. That gives me the freedom to go back to ground zero if I don't like the results of the adjustment. One way to copy a layer is this. In the Layers palette I'm going to select single layer in this file and I'm going to drag it up on top of the Create New Layer icon and release my mouse, and that makes a copy.
With that Copy layer selected, I'm now going to apply the shadow highlight adjustment by going to the Enhance menu at the top of the screen and choosing Adjust Lighting. Then I go over to Shadows/Highlights. When the Shadows/Highlights dialog box opens, it's already attempted to lighten the shadow areas in the image. As you can see, this slider labeled Lighten Shadows defaults to 25%. But to show you how the image started initially, I'm going to take that slider and drag it all the way over to the left. This is the photo I started with.
Now I do want to lighten the shadow areas. To do that, I'm going back to the Lighten Shadows slider and I'm going to drag it to the right. As I do, you can see the grass get lighter and now you can see the bicycle better too. But, the bright sky wasn't affected very much at all by that change. When you have a backlit photo like this one, you can make it more dramatic by darkening the highlights in the image. So I'm going to go to the Darken Highlights slider and drag that to the right. As you can see, it's bringing out lots more detail in the bright sky. I also have a Midtone Contrast slider here that allows me to adjust the contrast in the midtones between the highlights and the shadows. So if I drag that to the right, I'll increase some of the contrast in the grass.
There is a preview check box here and if I want to compare my current result with the way I stared, I'll uncheck the check box and I can see my original photo, which has been dramatically improved by applying the Shadows/Highlights adjustment. I'll click OK to apply that adjustment to the image. You can use the Shadows/Highlights adjustment to fix your backlit photos. If you shoot with flash, you might find the Shadows/Highlights adjustment useful to correct your images that are over- flashed, in which the foreground image is much brighter than the background. Give it a try.
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