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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
Here we are going to choose the file chalk_drawing.psd. You can find this in the Chapter 17_levels folder. Let's go ahead and double-click that one to open it up in Photoshop and then press F to go to Full Screen View mode. Now, because we are going to focus in on Levels, what I want to do here is open up the Histogram. We are going to go to Window and then choose Histogram. That will then open up our Histogram here and then I'll collapse that. We will be referring to it later. All right, well let's go ahead and click in the background layer here, so I clicked in the background layer. And we are going to click on the Add Adjustment Layer icon and choose Levels or we can go up to our Adjustments panel and we can also select Levels here and we will go ahead and click on that option.
Now in this Levels dialog, one of the things that I can see is that I have tones that are relatively in the middle area of the Histogram, right. I don't have a lot of deep blacks or a lot of bright whites. So what I'm interested in doing here is bringing my white tones to this point and bringing my black points to this point. It's going to increase the contrast and the color saturation, it looks so much better. Here is our before, that looks kind of flat, here is our after. All right, well we are able to increase the overall color saturation, yet when we look at our histogram; one of the things that we are going to notice is that there are some spaces between the tones here. Now, what exactly has happened? I have a little screen grab of that, so we can begin to deconstruct it.
Well, we have the spaces between these different tones because before if you look here, we have that same shape in our Histogram. Now what a histogram is, is it measures the tones at different value. So it says, right here let's say, these blacks are this many of those blacks so to speak. Think about like a little bar graph, right. Well, it took that bar graph, and then it accordion stretch that bad boy out so that now though we have gaps between our tones and this is called a combed histogram. Now there is a little bit of a debate about having combed histogram. So those people who say, you know what you have gaps in your tones, it's not a good idea and blah, blah, blah. Now, there are other people who say, well who cares, if the image looks good and it prints well, it doesn't matter.
In addition, there are those who say, you know what? Because you are going to push your images pretty far, you probably want to start off working with them in 16-bit format. So you have lots of information, so that when you stretch them, you can stretch them further, those gaps won't be as pronounced, you won't potentially have as many problems when you are reproducing the photograph. So just keep in mind that that's one of the things that you need to think about. Now, in my opinion combed histograms aren't necessarily bad if the image reproduces well. Now that being said, if I go ahead and push this further, so I'm going to go ahead and make this real close together here in my Levels dialog and then I open up the Histogram. Well the gaps are so far. We have clipped off so much information. That's obviously problematic, so that's not going to work for us.
I'll press Command+Option+Z on a Mac/ Ctrl+Alt+Z on a PC to step backwards to undo that. Now, this Histogram where we have these little gaps, it's going to be fine. This image looks really good and again let's look at our overall before and after. And so far we have learned how we can use Levels to increase contrast and color saturation.
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