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The Shadows/Highlights adjustment is one of those little gems that is rarely thought of, much less used, but it can be very useful when you want to keep the basic tone and contrast of an image while bringing out some detail. The first thing we need to do when using the Shadows/Highlights adjustment is duplicate the original layer. Shadows/Highlights is a destructive adjustment, meaning it doesn't work with a mask on its own layer, but directly on an image layer itself. So we need to make a duplicate layer to be the Shadows/Highlights adjustment layer.
We'll do this using Ctrl+J on a PC, Command+J on a Mac. Next, we'll go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Now let's tick the Show More Options box and begin moving the sliders. Let's start up here with our Shadows amount, move it over and see how that adjusts it. It makes it a little lighter. Move it back and see, it's darkening. You will see this part in the hair; it's a little bit faded.
Bringing this over to the left brings some of the dark tones back in. Let's see what Tonal Width will do for us. I'm going to move this over so we can see the full picture. What Tonal Width is doing is adjusting the overall tone, mostly maybe in this vignette here on the edge. Let's see if Radius does anything--not much. Just move all your sliders. You can always make note of what it was before and put it back originally, or if you don't like what you've done, you can hold down the Alt or Option key and it changes your Cancel button into a Reset button, and you can start back from the beginning.
Let's go to our Highlights > Amount. It's making him a little orange in the face. Let's pull it back over here. Tonal Width, kind of an overall darkening here, lightening here. Let's see what Radius does there. Again, this seems to be mostly working over here in edges. It's good to move your sliders, just so you know what it's going to do for you.
This Midtone Contrast seems to be doing a lot for this particular image, and we'll put this right here. I like how this sort of brings out the eyes by adjusting the tones around them. Your Black and White Clip you adjust this way by actually going in and changing the numbers. Sometimes that can set things off really badly. It's just always good, remember, that your default is 0.01. Just go back in and change your numbers if you don't like them. If they do anything too radical, change them back; if they don't--like they aren't here-- we'll just leave them.
Okay, tweak a couple more. See if that's doing anything for us. Now let's look at the preview. See how it was before, how it is now, and when you like the result, just click OK. Now let's see what Shadows/ Highlights does with a black-and-white image. Again, let's duplicate the layer, Ctrl+J or Command+J, and go up to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights.
It'll remember you're setting from the last time you used it. So if you have Show More Options ticked, that's how it will come up. Let's move this over. Start moving our sliders. Okay, very light and bring that in. It's going to react differently on every image you put in, so there's no particular settings that you can use. Of course, you can look at these here on the video and follow along that way, or you can just move your sliders to get a look you like.
This Radius slider, if you bring it out here, things are a little muddy and it seems to clarifies as you bring this in. This is actually pretty fun moving these sliders, just to see what happens. Now let's do a preview and look at how it was before and how it is now. Now especially on the black-and-white, that's a pretty vast improvement. And again when you like what you have done, you can click OK to accept the changes. Look one more time at the before and the after, and you can see that Shadows/Highlights made a pretty big difference in this black-and-white image.
While Shadows/Highlights isn't one of those adjustments you might automatically think of when it comes to color correction or tonal adjustment, it can actually do an admirable job, and should definitely be on your go-to color adjustment tool list.
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