Join Taz Tally for an in-depth discussion in this video Step-by-step brightness-and-contrast adjustment: Maintain cast, part of Photoshop Color Correction: Creative Mood Adjustments.
We're going to perform a series of adjustments on this gnarly reflections image. In our first one, we're just going to take a look at doing a brightness and contrast adjustment. Alright, so let's get started. And we're going to go up to our Trusty Curves Adjustment Layer dialog box. Notice the curves window appears down here, and it's got the histogram that matches the histograms we've got over here. And we see that there's no data on the shadow end. Now, understand that there's no right way or wrong way to adjust these images. This is all based upon whatever your design preferences are, whatever you want for your look and feel of your file.
If you like the way, if you like this really soft and moody image, boom. Leave it the way it is. But what we're going to talk about is if you do want to change it, how do you change it? You want to be able to predict how your adjustments are going to look when you finally make them. And we use our histogram to help us. In this case, we're going to begin making our adjustments by increasing the contrast, improving the contrast in this file. All right. And this is a pretty simple one to make an adjustment. If you just want to make an adjustment across the whole image without regard to changing the color balance, we work on the master RGB channel.
All right? Where you're adjusting all the channels at the same time. And that maintains a relative balance between the three colors. And here, there's not much room to move, in fact, none on the highlight end. We come up her and we drag the shadow over, and you don't have to drag it all the way. But if you do, if you want maximum contrast without loss of detail, you get it close and you keep an eye on your histogram up here. Then you just press your right arrow, watching the shadow end here, until it starts to peak like right there. Right, and then back off. And I always just take a quick check down here on the three channels, and whichever is the furthest to the left, in this case red, to make sure we're not going too far.
Because, you know, once you lose detail in an image, boy, that's it, baby, you can't ever get it back. So always be careful about that. All right. So, we've done an overall you know, increase in brightness and contrast by you know, spreading out that data across the tonal spectrum. Now, still working in the master curve, we can do a variety of things here, right? We can go to the midtone and just pull that midtone up to lighten the entire image. Or pull it down to darken the entire image. Or, here's an interesting thing to do. What if we would like to adjust the sky and the foreground tree and reflections, and so forth separately? The interesting thing about histograms with images like this is you can really clearly pick up which portion of the histogram matches which portion of the image.
because here we've got, you know, a bimodal distribution of data, where this is real, light portion of the image and this is the much darker portion of the image. Well, this is the sky, right? And then this is going to be the foreground, this peak here around the three-quarter tone is going to be the you know, the foreground with the tree and the darkness and the darker portions of the reflection. If I just want to work with the reflection and the darker portion's the midtone, I put a couple set points up there and then I just move here. And then I can adjust the foreground however I want to.
If I want to darken that foreground a little bit more, and I can do that. Or if I wanted to lighten it a little bit more, I could do that. Whatever my preferences are, whatever my creative preferences. So, you can start to begin to pick out portions of the histogram where it relates in the image. And then using control points, isolate portions of the image to make tonally specific controlled adjustments. And here we're just working with the master channel. We can do the same thing on individual channels as we'll see a little bit later. All right, so there's our brightness and contrast, and then little tonal range specific adjustment of brightness and contrast within the image.
Check out the first installment in this series, Photoshop Color Correction: Fundamentals, for more detailed information about adjusting color in Photoshop.