Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
Illustration by Richard Downs

Using the Shadows/Highlights command


Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals

with Deke McClelland

Video: Using the Shadows/Highlights command

In this movie I'll show you how to correct an image that suffers from far too much contrast using the Shadows/Highlights command. I have opened an image called High- contrast pachyderm.jpg, and it's fairly low-quality image as you can see here, but it's not beyond hope. I've got the Histogram panel open again. When you're in this Colors display, you're seeing overlapping histograms for each of the channels; red, green, and blue, which for our purposes right now I consider to be a little confusing.
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  1. 19m 15s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 27s
    2. Opening from the Windows desktop
      4m 7s
    3. Opening from the Macintosh Finder
      4m 9s
    4. Opening from Photoshop or Bridge
      2m 45s
    5. Opening an image from Mini Bridge
      1m 16s
    6. Opening through Camera Raw
      2m 32s
    7. Closing one image and Closing All
      1m 59s
  2. 38m 14s
    1. Navigating your image
    2. The dark vs. the light interface
      3m 12s
    3. Navigating tabs and windows
      4m 32s
    4. Panels and workspaces
      4m 27s
    5. Zooming incrementally
      4m 29s
    6. Zooming continuously
      2m 43s
    7. Entering a custom zoom value
      2m 25s
    8. Scrolling and panning images
      2m 31s
    9. Rotating and resetting the view
      2m 11s
    10. Cycling between screen modes
      3m 10s
    11. Using the Navigator panel
      3m 38s
    12. Adjusting a few screen prefs
      4m 16s
  3. 45m 58s
    1. Digital imaging fundamentals
      1m 45s
    2. Image size and resolution
      3m 3s
    3. The Image Size command
      3m 27s
    4. Common resolution standards
      3m 20s
    5. Upsampling vs. real pixels
      4m 36s
    6. Changing the print size
      6m 16s
    7. Downsampling for print
      4m 12s
    8. Downsampling for email
      3m 11s
    9. The interpolation settings
      5m 22s
    10. Downsampling advice
      4m 36s
    11. Upsampling advice
      6m 10s
  4. 53m 18s
    1. The layered composition
      1m 40s
    2. Introducing the Layers panel
      4m 13s
    3. Adding, scaling, and aligning layers
      5m 27s
    4. Dragging and dropping layers
      4m 36s
    5. Stack, reveal, and rename
      2m 58s
    6. Opacity, history, and blend mode
      6m 5s
    7. Duplicating a selected portion of a layer
      5m 32s
    8. Applying a clipping mask
      3m 58s
    9. Blending inside a clipping mask
      4m 10s
    10. Finishing off your artwork
      3m 13s
    11. Creating a new layer and background
      4m 24s
    12. Layering tips and tricks
      7m 2s
  5. 26m 19s
    1. The art of saving
    2. Four things to know about saving
      6m 0s
    3. Saving layers to PSD
      6m 38s
    4. Saving print images to TIFF
      4m 48s
    5. Saving an interactive image to PNG
      3m 41s
    6. Saving a flat photo to JPEG
      4m 18s
  6. 19m 36s
    1. Honing in on your image
      1m 43s
    2. The new and improved Crop tool
      3m 35s
    3. Editing your last crop
      3m 1s
    4. Straightening a crooked image
      2m 29s
    5. Filling in missing details
      6m 44s
    6. Using the Perspective Crop tool
      2m 4s
  7. 42m 6s
    1. First, there is brightness
      2m 12s
    2. How luminance works
      4m 18s
    3. The three Auto commands
      3m 27s
    4. Automatic brightness and contrast
      3m 19s
    5. The Brightness/Contrast command
      2m 47s
    6. The dynamic adjustment layer
      4m 5s
    7. Editing adjustment layers
      3m 52s
    8. Isolating an adjustment with a layer mask
      3m 31s
    9. Introducing the histogram
      4m 58s
    10. Measuring an adjustment
      3m 34s
    11. Using the Shadows/Highlights command
      6m 3s
  8. 44m 34s
    1. And second, there is color
      1m 31s
    2. Identifying a color cast
      3m 34s
    3. Correcting a color cast automatically
      3m 57s
    4. Changing the color balance
      6m 10s
    5. Compensating with Photo Filter
      3m 11s
    6. Adjusting color intensity with Vibrance
      3m 29s
    7. Correcting color cast in Camera Raw
      5m 46s
    8. The Hue/Saturation command
      5m 26s
    9. Summoning colors where none exist
      4m 9s
    10. Making more color with Vibrance
      4m 27s
    11. Making a quick-and-dirty sepia tone
      2m 54s
  9. 55m 47s
    1. Making selective modifications
      1m 11s
    2. The geometric Marquee tools
      6m 1s
    3. Aligning one image element to another
      4m 59s
    4. The freeform Lasso tools
      3m 59s
    5. Polygonal Lasso tool and Quick Mask
      5m 19s
    6. Cropping one selection inside another
      6m 15s
    7. Creating rays of light
      4m 44s
    8. Quick Selection and Similar
      4m 11s
    9. Making it better with Refine Edge
      4m 56s
    10. Integrating image elements
      2m 39s
    11. Magic Wand and Grow
      5m 17s
    12. Refine, integrate, and complete
      6m 16s
  10. 53m 49s
    1. Your best face forward
      1m 0s
    2. Content-Aware Fill
      6m 11s
    3. Using the Spot Healing Brush
      5m 36s
    4. The more capable "standard" Healing Brush
      5m 55s
    5. Meet the Clone Source panel
      3m 53s
    6. Caps Lock and Fade
      4m 57s
    7. The Dodge and Burn tools
      5m 1s
    8. Adjusting color with the Brush tool
      6m 35s
    9. Smoothing skin textures
      5m 58s
    10. Brightening teeth
      4m 0s
    11. Intensifying eyes
      4m 43s
  11. 51s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
6h 39m Beginner Apr 26, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals is a concise and focused introduction to the key features in Photoshop, presented by long-time author and Adobe veteran Deke McClelland. This course covers the image editing process from the very beginning and progresses through the concepts and techniques that every photographer or graphic designer should know. Deke explains digital imaging fundamentals, such as resolution vs. size and the effects of downsampling. He explains how to use layers to edit an image nondestructively and organize those edits in an easy-to-read way, and introduces techniques such as cropping, adjusting brightness and contrast, correcting and changing color, and retouching and healing images. These lessons distill the vast assortment of tools and options to a refined set of skills that will get you working inside Photoshop with confidence.

Topics include:
  • Opening an image from Photoshop, Bridge, or Camera Raw
  • Navigating, zooming, panning, and rotating the canvas
  • Adding, deleting, and merging layers
  • Saving your progress and understanding file formats
  • Cropping and straightening
  • Adjusting brightness and contrast
  • Identifying and correcting a color cast
  • Making and editing selections
  • Enhancing portraits by retouching skin, teeth, and eyes
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

Using the Shadows/Highlights command

In this movie I'll show you how to correct an image that suffers from far too much contrast using the Shadows/Highlights command. I have opened an image called High- contrast pachyderm.jpg, and it's fairly low-quality image as you can see here, but it's not beyond hope. I've got the Histogram panel open again. When you're in this Colors display, you're seeing overlapping histograms for each of the channels; red, green, and blue, which for our purposes right now I consider to be a little confusing.

So I'm going to once again switch to Luminosity so we can just focus on the luminance info. And I'll go ahead and update the graph. Now we do have an awful lot of shadow detail and an incredible amount of highlight detail going on here and some very sunken midtones. However, the image is not beyond hope, because we have no spike at the outset of the graph on the far left side and the graph settles down on the far right-hand side. So we have very little in the way of clipped highlights. That means we can ultimately recover some luminance.

Now you might start by trying out Brightness/Contrast. I'll go ahead and click on the black white icon at the bottom of the panel and choose the Brightness/Contrast command. Well I'll just go ahead and start things off by reducing the Contrast value to its absolute minimum of -50. And that does help. I'll go and update the graph once again. We are pulling some of that information away from the edges toward the center of the graph, but it's not doing nearly enough. The fact of the matter is Brightness/ Contrast can only take you so far where an image like this is concerned.

So I'm going to hide the Properties panel and I'm going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to delete that Brightness/Contrast layer. And then if you're working along with me, go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments, and choose Shadows/Highlights. Now you might reasonably ask, well, I thought Adjustment layers were so much better, why are we going to apply a static version of this command? And the reason is Shadows/ Highlights is not one of the functions that's available as an Adjustment layer. So we have to apply it as a static command.

So I'm going to go ahead and choose the command and you can see just by way of the default settings, which are to raise the Shadows by 35% and leave the Highlights unchanged, that we're already breathing a lot of life into that shadow detail. So the purpose of these sliders is, in the case of Shadows, to brighten the shadows and in the case of the Highlights, to dim down the highlights which ultimately take some of the heat out of highlights, breathes life into the shadow, contributes more to the midtones of the image, and reduces the contrast.

I'm going to click inside this Highlights value and press Shift+Up arrow a few times in order to darken up those highlights. I'm ultimately going to take that value up to 60%. Then I'm going to press Shift+Tab to go back to the Shadows value and I'll press Shift+Up arrow a few times to take that value up to 65%. This looks pretty darn good with the exception of the fact that we have some meandering colors that are showing up here. We can take care of that problem in a separate step.

So this looks about as good as it's going to get where Shadows/Highlights is concerned. The thing you have to watch for is that this command can end up creating this kind of glowing halos inside the highlight and shadow regions. If that happens, you've got some more controls that you can get access to by turning on the Show More Options check box and we'll explore these options in detail in a future course. But for now, go ahead and turn off the check box and we'll just work with these values here. Now click OK in order to apply that change.

Now whenever you apply a static adjustment, you can go back and modify how that adjustment blends with the original image by going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Fade command. But you have to choose this command immediately after applying the static adjustment. So I'll go ahead and choose it now. And the first thing I'm going to do to get rid of those aberrant colors is I'm going to switch the mode from Normal to Luminosity. That way we're modifying the luminance levels inside the image, not the colors.

As soon as I choose that command you can see that the colors settled down dramatically. Then I'm going to back off the effect by reducing the Opacity to let's say 70% looks pretty good, and then click OK. If you think better of what you just did, you can revisit that command by going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Fade command again and it will display your last applied settings. So at this point I could to say, you know, I think I want more like an opacity of 75% or what have you, and then click OK once again.

The thing you have to watch out for is performing some other operation, like if I so much as drag inside the image with a Rectangular Marquee tool and then press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image, now when I go up to the Edit menu, the Fade command is dimmed. So again I stress, you have to apply that command immediately after the static adjustment. Now then take a look at this histogram. It's in far better shape. I'm going to click on the little warning icon there in order to update the graph.

We have better distributed highlights, we have better distributed shadows, and we have all kinds of midtone detail in between. And just to see what kind of difference we made, I'll go to the File menu and choose the Revert command or you can press the F12 key. That was the original version of the image with these very dark shadows underneath the animal's body, as well as this complete and utter blackness beyond the door; whereas, if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to reapply the adjustment, you can see that we've opened up the shadows considerably and we can actually see into the background.

And that's the power of the very simple to use Shadows/Highlights command here inside Photoshop.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals .

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Q: Where can I learn more about graphic design?
A: Discover more on this topic by visiting graphic design on
Q: When I double click the welcome.psd file included with the exercise files, I get the following error message:

"Some text layers contain fonts that are missing. These layers will need to have the missing fonts replaced before they can be used for vector based output."

Unlike the TIF and JPEG files which display and open correctly, all the icons for PSD files are blank but other than the welcome.psd file, they seem to open correctly without the error message. Is this a problem that I should address (perhaps re-download the files or find the missing fonts)?
A: The TIFF and JPEG files are flat, so they don't contain fonts and the operating system can interpret them (and generate thumbnails) without help from Photoshop. The PSD files have two issues:

First, they may contain editable text complete with font info. The files are designed with fonts that ship with Photoshop, so you don't get error messages, but Adobe sells some versions of Photoshop without fonts. This may be your issue.

Second, the PSD files contain no flat previews. This makes for smaller files, but it means the operating system, Mac or Windows, cannot generate previews. That won't effect your experience in Photoshop, but it does mean you can't see the file until you open it.
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