Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

Advanced Levels adjustment layers

From: Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

Video: Advanced Levels adjustment layers

Now we are going to dig a little bit deeper into the Levels adjustment layer, and how you might use it for a landscape image. Obviously, we are still in Camera Raw at this point. This is an image that you haven't seen. These are the Panamint dunes in Panamint Valley, in Southern California, right next to Death Valley. One of the amazing things about this valley is it's difficult to tell scale. These dunes are probably 6 or 7 miles away. They are three or four stories tall. So there is a lot of depth to be had in this image. One thing that's great about this storm, this storm was rolling in, so I thought the obviously thing: It's time to get my camera and go outside and go shooting.

Advanced Levels adjustment layers

Now we are going to dig a little bit deeper into the Levels adjustment layer, and how you might use it for a landscape image. Obviously, we are still in Camera Raw at this point. This is an image that you haven't seen. These are the Panamint dunes in Panamint Valley, in Southern California, right next to Death Valley. One of the amazing things about this valley is it's difficult to tell scale. These dunes are probably 6 or 7 miles away. They are three or four stories tall. So there is a lot of depth to be had in this image. One thing that's great about this storm, this storm was rolling in, so I thought the obviously thing: It's time to get my camera and go outside and go shooting.

Hopefully, that's a lesson you're learning here. Notice we've got this bank of black clouds back here with a bunch of rain falling in front of it. It would be nice to play that up more and get to see more of that depth that's in there, as well just generally have more interesting clouds. I am going to hit Open to convert this into a Photoshop document. You may be wondering, so why aren't we just doing this with the Adjustment brush in Photoshop? It will become apparent as we go on here. The Adjustment brush is going to let me brush a uniform adjustment into the area, and I want something a little more varied.

So I'm going to add a Levels adjustment layer, and I see my histogram here. What I want to do is increase the contrast in this area up here. I know how to increase contrast. Obviously, the problem is going to be if I increase the contrast down here, I am going to lose a lot of detail. I am not going to worry about that, because we will make a layers mask. So I am going to set my adjustment layer Levels Settings right now to add more contrast. That's going to cause all of this stuff to go bad. Don't worry about that. Just keep your eye on this area up here as I make the adjustment.

There we go! Now we are getting somewhere. I can start to see the patterns of the rain in here. I am getting a definite nice distinction between the cloud layer and the rain in front of it. I am seeing a little more depth there. In the process I pulled some cool texture out back here that's kind of neat, that I couldn't see before. The bad news is I've completely trashed the foreground of the image. This stuff has turned blue, which is curious. This stuff has just dropped out to complete black. It's kind of cool that this has exaggerated this pool of light that it opened up on top of sand dunes. Plainly though, I need a mask.

So in this case, I am going to do what I did before. I'm going to fill the Adjustment layer with black. I've set my background color to black. I am going to hit Command+A to select all, Command+Delete to fill the adjustment layer with black and then Command+D to deselect. So I have this Adjustment layer that's adding contrast, but there is a completely opaque mask between the layer and my image, so none of that contrast adjustment is getting through. I am going to select a nice, big brush, really big brush with a soft edge, and then I am going to brush my contrast adjustment in here, and all sorts of things are starting to happen here.

I'll go down to, make sure this stuff gets hit. I want to be very careful about all that blue stuff that I was getting before. All right, we are not done yet, so don't worry about the problems you may be seeing in this image. But let's assess what we have. I'll make sure that's filled in. I have a mask that is white on top and black on bottom. In the words, the contrast increase that this adjustment layer has called for is hitting the upper parts of the area of the image, but not the lower areas of the image.

So it's great! This has improved a lot, and I can see the distinction between this rain in front and the clouds in back, but this stuff has gone kind of bad. So I could switch back to black paint and paint into this area to restore the mask, but that doesn't really work either, because how am I going to make a transition from this area where there's no contrast adjustment to this area where there is? Now one great thing about clouds is they're abstract. It's not that unusual to have a sudden change from black to white, but this big white splotch here is just a little bit too sudden.

So I am going to go back in and white back to white paint and open up that part of mask again, but here we are. We are back to something that's way too dark. So the problem is I need something between there. It would be nice to add a little bit of contrast to this, but not as much as I've got right now. If I change the settings in the Levels dialog box, then all of this is going to get messed up. There is a better way, fortunately, a more effective way, and that is as you've seen, I can paint with white paint to punch a hole in the mask, black paint to fill in the mask, and as logically follows, if I paint with a shade of gray, I will do something in between.

I am going to set by color here to about 50% gray, and now I am going to paint into this area. Aha! Now, I've got a level of contrast adjustment that fits better with that part over there. It's not quite as conspicuous as what I had before. This is still a bit too dark. I am keeping an eye on my mask down here to see what's going on. I think I've now opened up more of the mask that should have. I am going to switch back to black and start restoring some of this. And I am looking for a way of getting something that's more of a natural blending.

Then again, clouds are abstracts, so I have got a lot of leeway here for faking a lot of us, which is exactly what's going to happen here. Whoa! That's wrong. So I am just trying to put in a contrast adjustment in a way that it looks a little bit believable. So this area in here is still a little bit dark, but again I think that that just looks like a shadow in that particular valley.

So I've built a pretty good mask here. Let's do another before and after thing here. That's my image before, and that's after. So I have darkened little bit of this. The main thing though, again, is I've brought out all the stuff in the sky up here. Before. After. What I can really see is this rainstorm in front of the clouds behind. Let's exaggerate it a little further. Now that my mask is in place, let's go tweak our levels adjustment. Aha! Look what's happened here. Now, I have pulled out a little more to texture in these clouds up here, and I have exaggerated this difference even a little bit farther.

What I don't like about this is now these parts of the clouds have gone really dark. I would like to mask those out so that they don't get the full effect of the Levels adjustment. If I paint with black, I am going to block the contrast adjustment completely. I don't want to do that. I am going to go back to about 75% gray. If you can't remember whether it's black or white, or light gray or dark gray that's correct for what you need to do, that's fine. That was wrong. It should have been 25% gray. It's okay to brush some effect on.

If it's not right, just undo it. Pick another color and try again. You don't have to have an exact ability to predict exactly how a mask is going to turn out, and you can experiment and fiddle with it, and figure it out as you go. That's okay. So that looks a little better lined up, although it's still not quite there. This is a case where painting with a darker color is giving me lighter results.

Again, what's great about clouds is I can just dab and do whatever I want in here, and it ends up just looking like clouds texture. It's very hard to do a bad edit on clouds a lot times. Well, there's one right there, but we can fix that. I spoke a little too soon. No. So again, I'm just kind of feeling my way through what's the right direction to go with my mask color. Einstein said, "Never memorize anything you can look up," and I think that there's often merit to that idea.

This is looking a little - whoa! That's wrong. This is looking a little weird. I'm going to zero in on a color that will help me equalize some of that, and that's not quite it. I am going to back out of those. This is the History palette. It lets me work backwards through brush strokes. It's very handy for backing your way out of bad painting.

That part is still too dark. I need to do something about it. But look at my mask. So this area has too much contrast, meaning that it's probably too light there. I am right on the boundary between two different mask colors. That's going to be a little tough to fix. Again, with this falling rain, it's kind of okay if I've got some variation in color. So again, before and after. By mixing various shades of gray to blend in different amounts of contrast adjustment, I've pulled a lot of texture and depth and detail out of these cloud images.

In the next lesson, we are going to look at the exact opposite of what we've been doing. We've been trying to brighten a lot of things up with the idea that brighter and more clear is better. There are times though when you will find that you want to darken things on purpose.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography
Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

59 video lessons · 22845 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 44s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
  2. 46m 35s
    1. Defining landscape photography
      2m 23s
    2. Considering cameras and gear
      10m 41s
    3. Shooting and composition tips
      6m 39s
    4. Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG
      4m 25s
    5. Making selects
      10m 42s
    6. Understanding the histogram
      6m 53s
    7. A little color theory
      4m 52s
  3. 1h 14m
    1. Opening an image
      4m 42s
    2. Cropping and straightening
      9m 56s
    3. Nondestructive editing
      6m 23s
    4. Spotting and cleanup
      3m 53s
    5. Cleaning the camera sensor
      11m 17s
    6. Lens correction
      6m 26s
    7. Correcting overexposed highlights
      7m 29s
    8. Basic tonal correction
      5m 45s
    9. Correcting blacks
      11m 54s
    10. Correcting white balance
      6m 35s
  4. 21m 34s
    1. Performing localized edits with the Gradient Filter tool
      7m 24s
    2. Performing localized edits with the Adjustment brush
      7m 54s
    3. Controlling brush and gradient edits
      6m 16s
  5. 16m 34s
    1. Working with noise reduction
      5m 33s
    2. Clarity and sharpening
      5m 23s
    3. Exiting Camera Raw
      5m 38s
  6. 58m 5s
    1. Retouching
      8m 23s
    2. Using Levels adjustment layers
      10m 59s
    3. Saving images with adjustment layers
      4m 18s
    4. Advanced Levels adjustment layers
      9m 36s
    5. Guiding the viewer's eye with Levels
      8m 48s
    6. Using gradient masks for multiple adjustments
      5m 32s
    7. Correcting color in JPEG images
      3m 15s
    8. Adding a vignette
      3m 25s
    9. Knowing when edits have gone too far
      3m 49s
  7. 33m 24s
    1. Preparing to stitch
      5m 59s
    2. Stitching
      7m 39s
    3. Panoramic touchup
      7m 17s
    4. Shooting a panorama
      4m 58s
    5. Stitching a panorama
      7m 31s
  8. 27m 18s
    1. Shooting an HDR Image
      7m 53s
    2. Merging with HDR Pro
      11m 52s
    3. Adjusting and retouching
      7m 33s
  9. 24m 4s
    1. Why use black and white for images?
      2m 26s
    2. Black-and-white conversion
      7m 13s
    3. Correcting tone in black-and-white images
      7m 38s
    4. Adding highlights to black-and-white images
      6m 47s
  10. 49m 32s
    1. Painting light and shadow pt. 1
      11m 22s
    2. Painting light and shadow pt. 2
      12m 42s
    3. Painting light and shadow pt. 3
      9m 19s
    4. HDR + LDR
      5m 7s
    5. Reviewing sample images for inspiration
      11m 2s
  11. 48m 2s
    1. Sizing
      9m 8s
    2. Enlarging and reducing
      5m 3s
    3. Saving
      1m 24s
    4. Sharpening
      8m 23s
    5. Outputting an electronic file
      9m 4s
    6. Making a web gallery
      4m 17s
    7. Printing
      10m 43s
  12. 20s
    1. Goodbye
      20s

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

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.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your lynda.com subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.