Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
Another powerful adjustment in Photoshop is the ability to adjust your shadows and your highlights within a single adjustment. But if you look at your adjustment panel, you won't see an icon for this and that's because its under the Image menu, you select Adjustments, you can see that there's Shadow Highlights. But if I apply the adjustment here, it's going to be a destructive adjustment. But there's a workaround for that, on my layers panel I'm going to convert my background into a smart object. The easiest way to do that is to right mouse click and then choose Convert to Smart Object. Now when I choose Image and then Adjustments, I can select Shadow Highlights and we can apply this non-destructively.
Now, in the Basic mode, we have two sliders. One for the amount for the shadows and one for highlights. The amount slider is kind of like a volume slider as I move this over to the right. We're increasing the amount of change that's being applied to the shadows. In this case it's lightening them. If I use the amount slider under highlights again we're adjusting the volume, but this time we're adjusting how much darker the highlights get. If we choose to show more options, you can see that I also have a Tonal Width and a Radius slider.
I'm going to increase my amount quite a bit, and then we'll use the Tonal Width in order to determine what a shadow is, because if the amount is how much the shadow's being lightened, we need to know what a shadow is. Is a shadow just the very dark areas in your image that are being changed? Or are we going to move this to the right, so that we can change more of our midtone values here? We can always toggle on and off the preview to see the before and after. The radius determines how far out the adjustment should be carried out. That means when Photoshop finds a shadow area, and it applies the amount of lightening to the specific tonal width, how much does it fade or blend out from there? And there's no specific numbers that I can give you here.
You just need to look at your image and make sure that you're getting enough fade so that you can't tell exactly the areas that have been adjusted and those that have not. The highlights have the same options. We have the amount to bring the highlights down. We also have the tonal width, which determines what is a highlight. And see as I move it to the right, it's affecting more of the values closer towards the midtones. I'm going to back off on that, and then we have our radius slider which again you can watch as you drag the slider in your image you can see how it's fading out in different ways.
Here we have a much lower fade so it's not blending out with the surrounding areas. As I move it to the right you can it's almost like it's softening the effect but that's just because it's being faded with more and more pixels. Down below we have two adjustments. Both of these adjustments will be applied after these changes are made. So the color correction if I move to the right. You can see that I can add vibrance. Or we can subtract vibrance. In this case I'm going to leave it set up, maybe around 35. Then we can also choose to increase the midtone contrast if we want to.
Because remember we're taking our highlights and we're bringing them down into our midtone area and at the same time we're taking our shadows and bringing them up into our midtone area. So our images can have a tendency to look really flat. Well, this midtone contrast will allow me to add basically an S curve after the fact to kind of boost that dynamic range again so that we don't get those flat areas. If I tap the P key, we can preview, there's before. And there's after. So you can see I'm really bringing out a lot of detail in that shadow area, and I'm bringing down those highlights so that I'm decreasing the contrast that we had in the before image.
If we liked these settings, you'll notice that there's an option to Save as Default. So, I could save all of these settings as my new defaults if I wanted to. I'll click OK, because we need to take a look at the layers panel. We can see that this does not look like an adjustement layer and that's because it's not. There are a few adjustement that you find under the Image menu that are not actually adjustement layers. And they can't be an adjustement layer for a variety of different reasons. So, the workaround is we converted our background into a Smart Object, and then when we added this adjustment to that Smart Object, Photoshop actually added it as a Smart Filter. And we can see that filter right here.
If we wanted to make a change to the filter all I need to do is double-click where it says Shadow Highlights and that brings up my options. If I wanted to change the blend modes for the opacity for this adjustment I could double-click on the icon to the right of that and you can see I can change those parameters. In addition, the smart filter, the shadow highlight adjustment layer, has its own mask. So if I click on the thumbnail for the smart filter mask and I select my paintbrush by tapping the B key, if I paint with black, and in this case I'd be painting with white, so I want to tap the X key to exchange my foreground and background color. And if I increase my opacity all the way up to 100, now I can isolate the areas that I want Photoshop to apply this shadow highlight adjustment layer by painting.
Because of course anywhere that I paint right now, I would be painting out the effect. We can see that, because I just painted black in my mask, and this mask is showing or hiding this shadow highlight adjustment. Of course, I don't really want that, so I'm going to use a Cmd+Z or Ctrl+Z to undo that. And now we can just see the results. If I toggle on or off the eye icon next to shadow highlights, there's the before and after. So that's a great way to quickly bring back a little detail in your shadow areas that are too dark, or your highlight areas that are too light.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
180 Video lessons · 70151 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 91999 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 60253 Viewers
103 Video lessons · 28909 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.