How can I tell if the values in my image are balanced?
Auriel Hardwick, England
The coherence of your value organisation and structure can often make or break your image. Here’s a quick yet effective technique that you can use in Photoshop to give you a good sense of how your values are working together (I was taught this by artist Euan MacTavish).
Open your image in Photoshop and convert it to four simple levels of greyscale: black, white and two medium shades. If your value structure is sound then the image should still be recognisable. If the value range is too narrow, you’ll see large parts of the image blend together. This can help you identify the areas that need to be lightened or darkened, which will give your image more clarity and impact.
Try this technique out on some of your favourite artists’ work, and you’ll gain deeper insight into one of the reasons those images are so appealing to you. Thinking about this structure will become second nature, and your work will soon feel stronger and more memorable to the viewer.
Here I can see that my image is slightly heavy on the darks. The skin tones could be lighter, but generally I’m on the right track!
In Photoshop, set your image mode to Grayscale, then select Adjustments >Posterise and move the levels slider to 4.