DIGITAL DARKROOM Find your Levels
Take control of the tones in your images – George Cairns reveals all
Photoshop Elements’ automatic enhancement commands enable you to fix exposure problems with a click. Commands such as Auto Levels work their tone-tweaking magic by reading and adjusting a photo’s histogram.
A histogram is an undulating graph that shows the spread and strength of the shadows, midtones and highlights in a particular shot. The histogram of a correctly exposed photo will display a graph that spreads from the far left (where the shadows are represented) to the far right (where the highlights are represented). The concept of histograms may sound a bit daunting, but they’re the key to overcoming exposure-related problems.
In this tutorial, we’ll start by using the Auto Levels command to darken the washed-out shadows in our over-exposed start image. However, sometimes Auto Levels won’t produce the desired results – you may want to see more midtone detail or create dramatic black shadows, for example – so we’ll also explore how to make tonal adjustments manually using the shadow, midtone and highlight sliders in the Levels dialog. Not only will this help with the exposure, it will also improve colour and contrast.