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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
I've saved my progress as Gamma tweak.psd, found inside the 14_levels_curves folder. And in this exercise, I'm going to explain what's going on with the Output Levels values. Now, if you want the one sentence summary so that you can skip ahead to the next exercise and get on with your life, it's, don't worry about them, they are virtually useless. So I guess that's almost two sentences there, but that really does sum up the Output Levels values. Having said that, let me show you how they work. They sometimes come in handy with Masking, other times you might find them useful when compositing effects on top of each other and applying special Blend modes.
But for standard everyday average corrections, you don't need them. Here's what it does. We've got an Output Level value of 0, which is black and an Output Level of 255, which is white. And what you're doing is you're saying, the black point here, whatever black point value we specified, in this case 0, is going to be mapped to 0. So in other words, black becomes black. And in this case, 194, the white point value, becomes 255, so it becomes white. But let's say you'd rather map black to something much lighter, for example, I'll set the Output Levels value to 90, now I'm saying, whatever was black before, now becomes 90.
Problem is, with this approach you have nothing beyond 90. So 90 becomes your darkest color and after that you've got nothing. So if I bring up the Histogram panel, sure enough, we just eliminated our Shadow detail. And the same thing goes for the white point value here. If I take it down to, let's say, an even value of 200, then I'm mapping 194 to 200, which means that I'm getting rid of a bunch of highlights inside of my image. And we end up with this very dimmed image in the background, extremely low contrast.
So if you wanted to take something that was high contrast and make it low contrast, you could using this technique. But this is no way to take the contrast out of a continuous tone photograph, because you end up with nothing in the way of Shadows or Highlights, not reduced numbers of Shadows or Highlights, you're just wiping them out. Now, where this could become useful, in the old days you could use Output Levels value in order to dim an image. Then you would take it into something like, let's say, PageMaker or QuarkXPress, and use it as a background and run Type over it, very common design technique actually.
However, these days there's better ways to work. You could take the image into InDesign or Illustrator, for example, and reduce its Opacity and get a very similar effect. So for example, if I were to reduce the Opacity of this image inside of InDesign, to something pretty low, let's say 30%, I would get an effect that's analogous to this, which might serve as the perfect background for some body copy. Anyway, in our case, now that you understand how they work, we may see practical applications of Output Levels in future chapters, but for now, go ahead and leave your Output Levels set to 0 and 255 respectively.
In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to brighten up the shadow under the awning.
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