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A first look at Levels

From: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: A first look at Levels

In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the Levels command and I'm going to show you how to apply all of the Auto adjustments we have seen so far from inside the Levels dialog box, and control the behavior of those Auto adjustments. Pretty cool stuff, and then we will move on from there, we will be applying our own manual Levels and Curves modifications over the course of this chapter. Let's start off by opening this image. It's called Max at computer.jpg and this is a photograph of my elder son Max. Even though I'm very happy with the composition, and gee whiz, my son looks great here. I'm not so crazy about the color cast and the Luminance levels and blah, blah, blah, and so I could go up to the Image menu and I could say, you know, one of these Auto commands should do me pretty nicely because after all this is a low contrast image and it's got a color cast. So that's perfect, right? So let's go ahead and try Auto Color and see what happens. Not very satisfying, didn't really work very well there. So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that operation. Go back up to the Image menu right there and try Auto Tone this time. And that's different but qualitatively I'd say it's the same, it's still bad. So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac.

A first look at Levels

In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the Levels command and I'm going to show you how to apply all of the Auto adjustments we have seen so far from inside the Levels dialog box, and control the behavior of those Auto adjustments. Pretty cool stuff, and then we will move on from there, we will be applying our own manual Levels and Curves modifications over the course of this chapter. Let's start off by opening this image. It's called Max at computer.jpg and this is a photograph of my elder son Max. Even though I'm very happy with the composition, and gee whiz, my son looks great here. I'm not so crazy about the color cast and the Luminance levels and blah, blah, blah, and so I could go up to the Image menu and I could say, you know, one of these Auto commands should do me pretty nicely because after all this is a low contrast image and it's got a color cast. So that's perfect, right? So let's go ahead and try Auto Color and see what happens. Not very satisfying, didn't really work very well there. So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that operation. Go back up to the Image menu right there and try Auto Tone this time. And that's different but qualitatively I'd say it's the same, it's still bad. So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac.

So that's the thing about the Auto commands. You try them sometimes and they work beautifully, you try them other times and they don't do nearly what you hope they would do. And that's when you go ahead and choose either Levels or Curves. I'm going to go to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and I'm going to show you Levels and Curves here. Levels is the command you want to try first, generally speaking. And notice that Photoshop is even telling you as much because it went ahead and gave Ctrl+L or Command+L, that just wonderful simple keyboard shortcut to Levels. It didn't give Ctrl or Command+C to Curves because that's use my copy obviously under the Edit menu. But instead it gave Ctrl+M or Command+M. Why? Because it's letter after L. So if Levels doesn't work for you, this is Photoshop talking.

Swear to you. If Levels doesn't work for you, then that's when you bring up the big guns and you try out Curves. And I'll show you how that works, but for this image Levels is going to work nicely. Basically Levels gives us three points of control per color channel, so you have control over the shadows, the highlights and the midtones as you will see. And you have access to all those Auto functions as you do inside Curves as well. All right, so let's go ahead and choose Levels, and then in the next exercise we are going to apply Levels as an adjustment layer. But let's try it as a static adjustment for starters. So go ahead and choose the Levels command or press Ctrl+L, but of course Command+L on the Mac. And here is our histogram and all of its glory going from black over here on the left to white over here on the right. And we are seeing the composite histogram right here in the center of the dialog. So we have got very little in the way of shadows and we have got next to nothing in the way of highlights. So why in the world didn't the Auto commands go ahead and get rid of all this bad highlight information and expand the highlights to fill in so we had a brighter image? Well, the reason is we have this big spike of highlights of whites actually right here on the right side of the histogram and that prevented the Auto commands from doing their thing. You may notice though that there is an Auto button right there inside of the Levels dialog box, and if you click on it, guess what you apply? You apply what used to be called Auto levels, which is now called Auto Tone for whatever reason. But you apply the Auto Tone variation, which is to say it goes ahead and adjust the histogram for each one of the R, G and B channels independently of each other. So that the darkest color is black and lightest color is white.

But that didn't really do much because we already had a very light highlight; we are ahead of white in most of these channels. And we have something very close to a black in each of the channels as well. So it actually made the image a little darker, which is not what we wanted. But if you go over here to Options, then you can access the whole shebang here, all of the Auto functions. This is like Auto Control Central right here, this weird dialog box that most people never go to but it can be actually quite illuminating, quite helpful.

And notice here that we have these three options, Enhance Monochromatic Contrast, Enhance Per Channel Contrast and Find Dark & Light Colors. Well, there are three of them. And guess what, there are three Auto functions, and guess what else, each one of these corresponds to one of the Auto functions. So if I hover over Enhance Per Channel Contrast right there, I can see this tip that says Clip color channels independently to increase contrast and alter color casts (Auto Tone). Did you see that? I'll hover again. That final item in the tip, in parenthesis says Auto Tone, to show you that this is the Auto Tone function right there.

And if I were to select this first one, and I'll hover over it. Notice it says blah, blah, blah, blah, Auto Contrast, that's the Auto Contrast function right there. So if I click on it, I'll get the Auto Contrast effect instead. And then if I hover over this guy, Find Dark & Light Colors, that is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Auto Color. So I'll go ahead and select it and that gives me the Auto Color function. Not looking so good. Well, there is one other feature that's associated with Auto Color. So far what we've done is we've gone ahead and expanded the shadows and the highlights to the extent that it could, which wasn't very much where the highlights are concerned. As I was saying before for the same reason because we have this big shock of white right there. That's in this lamp in the background up there by the way. So it's gone ahead and neutralized those shadows and those highlights such as it found them. But it did not neutralize the midtones. You have to turn on this checkbox as well. And notice if I hover over the checkbox, it says blah, blah, blah, Auto Color. It's another Auto Color function. The nifty thing is however, not only can you combine it with this piece of Auto Color, you can also combine it with this piece of Auto Levels or this piece of Auto Contrast if you want to. So we have further control.

Now it's not actually doing anything that we wanted to do so far but we can make it do something that we wanted to do so far. Am I talking properly yet using these clipping functions down here? And I'm going to show you how these clipping functions work in the next exercise. So for now I'm just going to cancel out. Goodbye, goodbye. You are not doing me any good so far. In the next exercise we are going to go over here to Layers palette and the Adjustments palette. We are going to apply the Levels command as an adjustments layer and then we are really going to get into it folks. So join me, won't you?

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced

218 video lessons · 23905 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 22m 32s
    1. Welcome to Photoshop CS4 One-on-One Advanced
      1m 43s
    2. Installing the DekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 17s
    3. Resetting the function keys on a Mac
      3m 51s
    4. Installing the CS4 color settings
      4m 37s
    5. Setting up the CS4 color settings
      6m 4s
  2. 2h 43m
    1. Highlights, shadows, and midtones
      49s
    2. Low contrast, bad meter
      5m 57s
    3. Auto tone, contrast, and color
      8m 1s
    4. Cache levels and the Histogram palette
      7m 16s
    5. How the auto commands work
      10m 15s
    6. A first look at Levels
      6m 11s
    7. Target colors and clipping
      9m 6s
    8. Modifying input levels
      9m 44s
    9. Adjusting the gamma value
      7m 34s
    10. Previewing clipping
      7m 17s
    11. The futility of output levels
      4m 56s
    12. Channel-by-channel edits
      11m 54s
    13. When levels fail
      4m 34s
    14. A first look at Curves
      8m 46s
    15. Static Curves layer tricks
      7m 45s
    16. Dynamic Curves layer tricks
      7m 25s
    17. Correcting the composite image
      8m 30s
    18. Neutralizing a color cast
      6m 52s
    19. The Target Adjustment tool in Curves
      8m 29s
    20. Correcting an image in Lab
      10m 7s
    21. The Shadows/Highlights filter
      4m 18s
    22. Radius and tonal width
      8m 11s
  3. 1h 48m
    1. Edge-enhancement tricks
      1m 13s
    2. How sharpening works
      3m 48s
    3. The single-shot sharpeners
      4m 29s
    4. The Unsharp Mask filter
      7m 57s
    5. Understanding the Radius value
      6m 25s
    6. Gauging the best settings
      7m 47s
    7. Previewing how sharpening will print
      3m 37s
    8. Measuring and setting screen resolution
      6m 56s
    9. Tweaking the screen resolution
      4m 28s
    10. Sharpening the luminance data
      8m 23s
    11. USM vs. Smart Sharpen
      4m 23s
    12. Smart Sharpen's Remove settings
      5m 50s
    13. High-resolution sharpening
      6m 16s
    14. When to leave More Accurate off
      3m 48s
    15. When to turn More Accurate on
      4m 23s
    16. The advanced options
      7m 57s
    17. Saving Smart Sharpen settings
      4m 23s
    18. Accounting for camera shake
      7m 7s
    19. Sharpening with the High Pass filter
      9m 8s
  4. 2h 16m
    1. Why would you blur?
      1m 8s
    2. Fading after an undo
      3m 27s
    3. The "bell-shaped" Gaussian Blur
      5m 43s
    4. The linear Box Blur
      3m 6s
    5. Add Noise vs. Median
      4m 50s
    6. Despeckle vs. Dust & Scratches
      6m 31s
    7. Smart Blur vs. Surface Blur
      8m 13s
    8. The Motion Blur filter
      4m 33s
    9. Radial Blur's Spin and Zoom variations
      5m 48s
    10. Mixing filtered effects
      3m 56s
    11. The "Captain Kirk in Love" effect
      5m 4s
    12. Diffusing focus with Blur and Overlay
      8m 50s
    13. Simulating Vaseline and film grain
      8m 2s
    14. Filling a layer with a neutral color
      2m 55s
    15. Old-school contrast reduction
      3m 39s
    16. Three steps to diffused focus
      7m 36s
    17. Averaging skin tones
      9m 45s
    18. Addressing the stubborn patches
      5m 26s
    19. Combining Gaussian Blur and Average
      6m 1s
    20. Blurring surface details
      3m 2s
    21. Smoothing blemishes while matching noise
      8m 6s
    22. Reducing digital noise
      8m 47s
    23. Striking a smooth/sharpen compromise
      4m 36s
    24. Smoothing over JPEG artifacts
      7m 38s
  5. 2h 31m
    1. Independent layers of color adjustment
      1m 7s
    2. Undersea color channels
      4m 2s
    3. Inventing a Red channel with Lab
      8m 20s
    4. Mixing color channels
      6m 55s
    5. Making shadows with Levels
      7m 5s
    6. Applying small color adjustments
      6m 0s
    7. Further modifying Levels in Lab
      8m 50s
    8. Creating a dynamic fill layer
      4m 38s
    9. Brushing and blending color
      4m 42s
    10. Working with "found masks"
      7m 31s
    11. Saturation, sharpen, and crop
      8m 9s
    12. Mixing a monochromatic image
      7m 2s
    13. Masking an adjustment layer
      4m 45s
    14. Working with Opacity and blend modes
      3m 39s
    15. Adding a black-and-white adjustment
      5m 53s
    16. The Target Adjustment tool in black and white
      6m 12s
    17. Tinting a monochrome photo
      3m 19s
    18. Introducing Gradient Map
      4m 17s
    19. Adjusting both color and luminance
      5m 44s
    20. Infusing elements with different colors
      6m 22s
    21. Adjustment layers as creative tools
      4m 33s
    22. Inverting and brightening the background
      5m 14s
    23. Blurring live, editable type
      5m 43s
    24. Hue, saturation, and darkness
      6m 51s
    25. Filling type with a color adjustment
      3m 24s
    26. Using one adjustment to modify another
      3m 21s
    27. Breathing color into the title
      3m 38s
    28. The Hue/Saturation humanoid
      3m 44s
  6. 1h 48m
    1. Parametric operations
      1m 23s
    2. The power of blend modes
      6m 16s
    3. Changing the Opacity value
      5m 46s
    4. Opacity vs. Fill Opacity
      4m 37s
    5. Meet the blend modes
      6m 4s
    6. Blend mode shortcuts
      7m 8s
    7. Darken, Multiply, and the Burn modes
      6m 33s
    8. Tempering a Burn effect with Fill
      4m 43s
    9. Saving a blended state
      4m 18s
    10. Lighten, Screen, and the Dodge modes
      8m 22s
    11. Linear Burn = Add minus white
      5m 31s
    12. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 52s
    13. Fill Opacity takes priority
      6m 19s
    14. Difference and exclusion
      5m 21s
    15. Using difference for golden highlights
      4m 2s
    16. The composite (HSL) modes
      6m 8s
    17. The brush-only modes: Behind and Clear
      10m 31s
    18. Layer groups and the Pass Through mode
      8m 54s
  7. 1h 53m
    1. It's all about the presentation
      58s
    2. Moving a layer a specific number of pixels
      6m 59s
    3. Adding a pixel mask to a layer
      5m 48s
    4. Editing a layer mask
      7m 19s
    5. Combining layers into a clipping mask
      6m 19s
    6. Introducing the Advanced Blending options
      4m 45s
    7. Using the luminance blending sliders
      7m 26s
    8. Forcing through underlying luminance
      4m 32s
    9. Masking with a path outline
      5m 45s
    10. Refining a mask from the Masks palette
      7m 18s
    11. Creating and modifying a layer group
      3m 29s
    12. Establishing a knockout group
      5m 29s
    13. Fixing last-minute problems
      6m 23s
    14. Introducing layer comps
      6m 40s
    15. Exploring layered states
      6m 43s
    16. Deleting layers and updating comps
      6m 18s
    17. Saving a basic composition
      6m 21s
    18. Assigning and saving appearance attributes
      7m 15s
    19. Layer comps dos and don'ts
      7m 27s
  8. 1h 56m
    1. Type: The great imaging exception
      56s
    2. Establishing default formatting attributes
      4m 5s
    3. Saving formatting attributes as a preset
      8m 5s
    4. Making a point text layer
      6m 18s
    5. Editing size and leading
      6m 44s
    6. Working with vector-based text
      6m 12s
    7. Formatting area text
      4m 16s
    8. Creating a layer of area text
      3m 20s
    9. Resizing the text frame
      4m 34s
    10. Changing the anti-aliasing setting
      3m 58s
    11. Obscure but important formatting options
      6m 31s
    12. Text editing tricks and shortcuts
      8m 44s
    13. Creating a cast shadow
      6m 1s
    14. Blurred shadows and beveled text
      7m 16s
    15. Drawing a path outline
      4m 51s
    16. Creating type on a path
      6m 39s
    17. Flipping text across a circle
      3m 18s
    18. Vertical alignment with baseline shift
      4m 16s
    19. Warping text
      4m 57s
    20. Scaling your text to taste
      3m 33s
    21. Applying a custom warp
      6m 24s
    22. Creating an engraved text effect
      5m 11s
  9. 2h 17m
    1. Bending an image to fit your needs
      53s
    2. Creating a canvas texture
      6m 48s
    3. Masking objects against a white background
      5m 42s
    4. Scaling an image to fit a composition
      8m 9s
    5. Aligning one layer to fit another
      3m 51s
    6. Changing the Image Interpolation
      8m 10s
    7. Merging faces
      5m 32s
    8. Rotating the first clock hand
      7m 17s
    9. Adding hands and pasting styles
      6m 40s
    10. Series duplication in Photoshop
      4m 35s
    11. Masking objects against a black background
      6m 34s
    12. Skews and perspective distortions
      7m 57s
    13. Envelope-style warps
      9m 2s
    14. Old-school distortion filters
      8m 50s
    15. Introducing the Liquify filter
      4m 9s
    16. Reconstructing an image
      6m 55s
    17. Using the Warp tool
      5m 16s
    18. The Pucker and Bloat tools
      5m 53s
    19. Push, Turbulence, and Twirl
      6m 41s
    20. The Freeze and Thaw mask tools
      5m 45s
    21. Saving and loading a mesh file
      3m 59s
    22. Creating and applying a texture layer
      8m 30s
  10. 1h 28m
    1. Effects vs. styles
      1m 11s
    2. Of layer styles and masks
      4m 37s
    3. Everything about drop shadow
      8m 2s
    4. Adding a directional glow
      4m 39s
    5. Colorizing with Color Overlay
      5m 18s
    6. Stroke and fill opacity
      5m 48s
    7. Creating a multicolor Outer Glow
      9m 22s
    8. Introducing Bevel and Emboss
      7m 48s
    9. Contour and Texture
      4m 35s
    10. Simulating liquid reflections
      6m 28s
    11. Saving layer styles
      6m 18s
    12. Applying and appending styles
      4m 36s
    13. Saving and swapping style presets
      3m 16s
    14. The five effect helpers
      3m 47s
    15. Blending the effect before the layer
      5m 1s
    16. Colorizing a signature
      3m 30s
    17. Clipping an effect with a mask
      4m 5s
  11. 1h 50m
    1. Welcome to the digital darkroom
      1m 46s
    2. Opening Camera Raw in the Bridge
      5m 44s
    3. The Camera Raw 5 interface
      4m 39s
    4. Adjusting the white balance
      5m 0s
    5. Finessing and saving changes
      7m 55s
    6. Using the White Balance tool
      2m 43s
    7. Working with the Exposure controls
      7m 34s
    8. Straightening and cropping a raw image
      5m 53s
    9. Applying automatic exposure adjustments
      6m 6s
    10. Exposure warnings
      5m 44s
    11. Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation
      4m 47s
    12. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 33s
    13. Dodging with the Adjustment brush
      9m 24s
    14. Tone Curve adjustments
      6m 54s
    15. Using the Spot Removal tool
      2m 48s
    16. Removing noise and sharpening detail
      4m 5s
    17. Adjusting HSL values
      4m 18s
    18. Adjusting luminance, color by color
      4m 14s
    19. Black and white and split toning
      5m 16s
    20. Camera Raw tips and tricks
      7m 32s
    21. Correcting JPEG and TIFF images
      4m 42s
  12. 57s
    1. Until next time
      57s

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