To continue our photo editing series, today we will be looking at adjusting highlights, shadows, and mid-tones using Levels. I will be working in Photoshop Elements 2018, but this technique works in full versions of Photoshop in the same way.
Here is my original photo. I took it with my cell phone, with the light directly behind my dog, Stella.
In Photoshop Elements:
- In Expert Mode, in the top Menu bar, go to : Enhance / Adjust Lighting / Levels
- In the top Menu bar: Image / Adjustments / Levels
Since there are multiple ways to access the Levels box, just use your favorite method, if you like. This is what the Levels box looks like.
Our goal is to reveal more detail in the darker and lighter areas of the image, then we will adjust the mid-tones.
We will be using the eye-droppers to set our white point and our black point.
- Click on the white eyedropper (far right) to select it, and then click on the photo at the brightest, whitest spot you see.
- Do the same with the black eyedropper.
I clicked on the really light, white part of the fur on Stella’s hair, and on the black of her eye.
Tip: If you don’t like the result you get, you can keep clicking on the image until you find a result that you like. Or Control + Z to undo and try again.
That definitely looks better than the original image, but now let’s adjust the mid tones. We do this by adjusting the middle slider in the Input Levels. Move the slider to the left to make the mid tones lighter, and to the right to make them darker.
I moved the slider to the left (1.33) and this was the result: (This is not a magic number. The amount you move the slider will depend upon your photo.)
I hope you find this helpful and that it is a technique that will help you rescue photos that you thought were hopeless.
If you would like to download a PDF of this tutorial, you may do so here: Photo Editing Using Levels: The Basics