Photoshop SIG Notes – December 2016


The December  SIG looked at ways to use selection tools to:
(1) Change the sky back ground
(2) Change the background colour
(3) Ways to create composite images

But first, a look at another outline for a workflow from the lads at photography.tuts plus (–cms-27487).

I amazed at the occasional gem that appears sometime among all the day to day mediocre websites. The one below is an example of one of these gems.

Work flow outline for post production of your images.
We always seem to be looking at a different order of steps to follow for enhancing a snapshot. This is a website worth going to have a read.

The steps are the same, ” . .  whether it is for a workflow that’s quick and dirty for pictures on a deadline, or it might be a workflow for producing the best possible image, for when quality counts. ”

The website above suggests five stages for your post production image enhancement.
There are five stages to this workflow:

  1. File Preparation
  2. Pre-Visualization
  3. Building Up
  4. Pre-Print
  5. Output

How to replace a sky in Photoshop
The details for this were covered a few years ago in a previous post. Please refer back to it at:

For today, we will just do a simpler method for the down and dirty way.
(1) Open up one of your own photos with a boring sky. The one that I am starting with is shown below. It shows the editor walking along the beach with a friend at Eastern view on the Great Ocean Road. The shadow of the intrepid photographer can be seen at the bottom of the snapshot. Here it is.

Image 1 – Editor walking on beach


(2) A few steps have been left out here. I opened the image in Adobe Camera Raw using the RAW format from my trusty Canon G12.  Next, I used the basic panel to go through some enhancement of the photo. I checked the size of the image (9 x 12 inches). I used the crop tool to change it to a 8 x 6 photo at 300 dpi so that I could print it when finished. Here is the image ready for the next step.

Image 2 – Editor on beach cropped.


Click on image to see in full size.

(3) Press Control + J to duplicate the layer.
(4) Click on the Quick Selection tool and use it to select the sky.
(5) Press the Delete button to make the sky disappear.


lace holder.

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Photoshop SIG Notes for November 2016

You can find these notes online at the Photoshop SIG website:

Bill Ellemor was the presenter at the November Photoshop SIG. He was given these questions before hand to use as a starting point for discussion during the SIG. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go through all of these.

What follows is two things:
– some of the points that Bill went over during the SIG.
– my notes to go along with what Bill explained to us.

Question 1 – How do you put a frame around a photo?
– Bill Ellemor’s method
(1) Duplicate the layer using Control + J.
(2) Create a new layer by clicking on Layer/New/Layer.
(3) Select all by pressing control + A.
(4) Edit stroke. Here is the image that I am using.


Click on the image to see in full size.

(4) Set these as your choices in the Stroke Box:
Width – 200 pixels
Colour – white (or click on this and chose another color to suit you and your photos).
Location – tick the Inside radio button.
Blending Mode – Normal
Opacity – 100%
(5) Click on OK. Voila! Sort of a frame appears around your image.
(6) If you don’t like it, then press Control +Z to Undo it and have another go.


Click on the image to see in full size.

For more info try here – (An oldie but a goodie.)

Question 2 – How can you change the background of a portrait?
Bill Ellemor gave a concise explanation of how to do this.

I feel that this really needs a few minutes spent on revising how to use the PS selection tools before we can get into the changing of the background of the image. This will be the first topic for the December SIG.

Question 3 – How much processing do you do in Camera Raw before importing it into Photoshop?
Bill Ellemor made the following points:
– set your camera to save in both raw and jpg format (RTM).
– PS will open any raw images in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
– if your image is in jpg format, then click on File/Open As and then choose the Camera Raw format as shown in the image below:


Click on the image to see in full size.

– use the sliders in the first panel that opens in ACR. You can probably do 80% of your image editing in ACR.

If you have raw format, then use the ACR in PS
Bill Oldham added:
– You can download the latest version of ACR for your computer and OS.  Here is one website that seems to be trustworthy:
– Google “Adobe Camera Raw tutorials” to find out all the different thing that you can do with ACR.
– This website was helpful to me when I started using ACR:

Question 4 – What actions would you recommend for LR and PS?
This was one that we skipped because we were running short on time. My suggestions would be:
– Download and install the free NIK effects for Photoshop ( and access these through the filters menu. Tons of fun and will keep you busy for six months.
– With Lightroom just use the existing presets to get started with.
– I have deliberately left out any discussion of Actions for now. These will be covered in the new Lightroom SIG starting in 2017.

Question 5 – Is there an inexpensive way to do colour calibration of camera, monitor and printer so that they look the same?
I really cannot remember if we had any time for this topic. But here are two websites that you may find helpful:
– Spyder5EXPRESS sells for about $AUS 200

Turns out that Questions 6 and 7 are two sides of the same coin.
Question 6 – How do you replace the part of a photo, for example, on a mirror that is part of a photo? I think this means how do you replace part of an image with something else.
Question 7 – Suggestions for simple ways to combine two or three images to create a composite.
Both of these will be the main part of the discussion for the December SIG.

More ways to create frames for your photos
The following is a gathering of some answers from the internet that you might be able to use if you were not able to attend the SIG on November 5, 2016 at New Hope Baptist Church.

Photo Frames
Method 1 – Increase the canvas size to get a white frame
(1) Pick an image that you are happy to work with. No sense in opening an image that you think is a piece of junk.
(2) Do the usual procedure to ensure that you are not working on an original (Copy the file, rename the file, close the original file, write down where you saved the copy to if need be).
(3) Click on Image /Canvas Size.
(4) Change the Inches to percent.


Click on the image to see in full size.

(5) Change the number from 100 to 120 in both the width and the height.
(6) Choose White for the Canvas Extension color at the bottom of the dialogue box.


Click on the image to see in full size.

(6) Press OK. You should get a nice white border around your image.


Click on the image to see in full size.

If it looks out of balance to you, then go back to Inches from Percent and try several different values until you find one that you are satisfied with.

Variation 1 – Change the colour of the frame
(7) Start over again until you get back to Step 5.
(8) Click on the tick box next to where it says Canvas extension colour.


Click on the image to see in full size.

(9) Use the dialogue box to pick a colour that you want to use for the border.
(10) Click OK on the Colour Picker.
(11) Click on the Canvas Size. Voila!


Click on the image to see in full size.

Variation 2 – Add a fancy border on top of the green canvas border.
(12) Do a Google image search for frames png. Pick one that is a good size (say 4 MP) to avoid your frame looking pixellated. Here is the one that I am going to use here:

Now I know that you remember how to do this. But just in case, here it is again for a bit of revision.
(13) Save your image from Google.
(14) Open the image in PS.
(15) Press the V key to open up the Move tool. Remember, keyboard short cuts are your friend!
(16) Click and drag the border image down into the work area.


Click on the image to see in full size.

(17) Now click on the tinkerbell border and drag it up into the flower image.
(18) Release the mouse. The flower border appears now as Layer 1 in the Layers panel on the right.
(19) Click the close box on the flower border image .
(20) Press Control + T to bring up the Transform tool.
(21) Drag out the corners of the flower border to match up with the green canvas around the flower image. Looks like this
(22) Well, that is not quite what I expected. Try the different blend modes. I settled for the Lighter Color blend mode so that the green extended canvas can be seen with tinkerbell on top.


Click on the image to see in full size.


Challenge for December
Use one of your own still life floral images as the basis. Then carefully follow each step in this tutorial –

Send your before and after jpgs to me to post on to the website. My email is

I would like to say thanks to Bill Ellemor for his entertaining and informative presentation at the November Photoshop SIG.

I hope that you will go home and try some of the ideas presented.

That’s all, folks!

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Photoshop SIG October 2016

More breaking news!
Bill Ellemore is returning as the presenter to answer any and all questions/problems that you have been bothering you.

Please email me ( or just tell me any questions/problems at the start or end of the SIG meeting on October 8, 2016. This will give Bill a head start on what to prepare for.

If the notes in this post do not match up exactly with the previous post (what to expect in the October SIG), This is due to the deadline for the article for the AUSOM News being the week before the actual meeting. So everything that you read here is sort of a guess!

The three topics for the October SIG are:
(1) Explanation of the Vibrance tool and how, why and when you can use it.
(2) Adding a  bokeh background to your snapshot.
(3) Using the PS blur filter to create a soft out of focus background.

So let’s make a start.

Part 1

The Vibrance tool
Here is the photo that I am  starting with in camera raw format:


Click on image to see in full size.

What is the difference between saturation and vibrance?
The simplest answer that appealed to me was from our friends at the Digital Photography School ( here in Melbourne:

Vibrance is a smart-tool which cleverly increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well saturated colors alone. It’s sort of like fill light, but for colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and unnatural.

Read more from the same article at

Another way to describe it is that saturation will boost all the colours in your image until it looks bloody awful and your grand child looks at it and says, “It’s been Photoshopped and looks awful!” So go easy on the Saturation slider.

The vibrance slider is a lot more useful in that it leaves the yellows and orange tones alone and subtly (Note the word – subtly) increases the other colours without it being too obvious. “Gran, what a great photo. How did you do that?” The reply might be, “Just lots and lots of patience, Little Grasshopper.”

So go back to the link above and look at the three variations of the shot of the married couple. Vibrance – good. Excessive saturation – bad!

So here is the image that I started with after a bit of adjustment. I did my usual steps –  renamed it, saved as, duplicated the layer, played with blend modes (multiply) and opacity 55%), added a hue saturation adjustment layer (clipped to the  duplicate layer), added a frame and did a Save As in jpg format.


Final image after enhancement with the Vibrance too (and a few others as well!). Click on Image to see in full size.

Well that wraps up the last two months discussion of five PS tools to use to enhance your favourite snapshots. Or go back over the discussion from

Part 2

What is bokeh?
This answer is kind of reverse engineered. By the time I almost completed this article I was thinking in term soft, out of focus backgrounds with soft circles of light. How wrong could I be? Really wrong.

Near the end I searched the Digital Photography School website for “bokeh”. I got 15 hits and some beautiful images to look at. Here is my favourite. The effect can be achieved by using the brush tool in Photoshop. I hope that you will have as much fun with this idea as I have.

Adding bokeh (soft background with light effects) to your photo
Putting this part together has been a big help to me.

Before I started I did not realise that there was a difference between bokeh and a softly blurred background. Now I know a little bit more and I hope that I can pass it on to you.

Using Photoshop to create bokeh
The first question is how do you pronounce it correctly? We can find the answer to that at this website –

Sarah Hipwell explains that:

Bokeh is the term that refers to the aspect of light sources that are blurred in the background or foreground.

Here is an example of a back ground image with bokeh lights.


Click on image to see in full size.

Now let’s use PS to create a back ground. Here is the image that I am starting with. You can download this if you want to follow along.

Starting point for creting a bokeh background

Starting point for creating a bokeh background. Click on image to see in full size.

(1) Open an image of lights that you have either taken yourself or downloaded from the Internet. I am working in PS.

(2) Duplicate the layer (Control +J).
(3) Click on Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur.
(4) Move the slider across to create a blurry image that is hard to figure out what it is when you compare it to what you started with. Here is what I have:

Click on image to see in full size.

Apply a Guassian Blur to the duplicate layer. Click on image to see in full size.

(5) Add a new layer by clicking on Layer/New/Layer.
(6) Press B for your brush tool.
(7) Click on the drop down menu to open the Brush Preset picker.


The red arrow shows you where to click for the Brush controls – size, opacity (100%) and hardness (100%)

(8) Choose a round hard edged brush and set the opacity to 100%.
(9) Set the foreground colour to white.
(10) Press the F5 key to bring up the brush dialogue box.
(11) Tick the Scatter to 100 %, Count to maybe 3 or 4 and jitter to 50%

As you make each adjustment you can see how the brush will be affected by looking at the line at the bottom of bottom of the dialogue box. Here is what my screen shot looks like:

Showing the brush and scatter controls.

Showing the brush and scatter controls.

(12) OK Here goes. Drag your brush diagonally on the image. You should have a scattered layer of white dots on it. Yippee! Arghh. That looks awful.


First try at creating dots.

So here is the plan. I am going to make one layer of large circles. Then I’ll set the Blend mode to Overlay. Then I will run a Gaussian blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) as we did before.  This will give me fuzzy, coloured circles.
(13) Set your brush to 90 pixels.
(14) Swipe your brush once or twice across your image. You can always use Control + Z to undo it if you don’t like it.
(15) Play with the scatter, Jitter and Count controls (F5).
(16) Like it? Good. Choose the Overlay Blend mode.
(17) Now click on Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur and set the radius to about 10. Here is what I have now:

Click on the image to see in full size. Second try with larger brush, overlay blend mode and a Gaussian Blur.

Second try with larger brush, overlay blend mode and a Gaussian Blur.

(18) Now repeat steps (5) to (17) using a smaller brush size, and a blur radius of about 5 this time.
(19) Repeat Step (18). This time set the blur radius to about 2 or 3.

Here is how mine finished up:


Click image to see in full size. Two more layers have been added with smaller diameters for the brush size and the blur radius has been decreased with each one to give a sharper circle.

(20) Flatten the image.
(21) Run a curves adjustment layer on it. Just a slight tweak. The Lighter preset was enough for me.
(22) Thank you WordPress for Auto Save.
(23) Press F5 for your Brush dialogue and untick the Scatter box. Otherwise some very strange things happen the next time that you use your brush.
(24) Here is the picture that I am going to use the bokeh background that I just created to replace the blue sky. This opened in Camera Raw. I used the shot in daylight and the auto commands before importing it into Photoshop.


Photo shot at the Balwyn Fruit and Vegie swap back in May by myself for once. Click on image to see in full size.

(25) Do the usual – rename the image, do a Save As, duplicate the layer, try some blend modes and change the opacity if you want to.
(26) OMG. What is wrong with my brush? Oh. Forgot to change the brush blend mode back to Normal. How did that happen?
(27) Second try. Added the bokeh to the blossom image. Settled for a Blend mode called Color. Dropped the Opacity down to 45%. That looks OK. I’ll stop there for tonight.

Final image

Final image – da, da!

Part 3

Creating a soft background with your camera.
My limited experience has been in taking close up shots of various items with a Canon G12 fixed lens camera. By using Aperture mode and a setting of f2.8, I get a snapshot that is focused on the object but leaves the background as a blur. This helps to draw the attention to the object. So this is a deliberate choice. It took me awhile to get used to comments such as, “It’s out of focus! Go back and try again.” Here is what I was trying to do with a shot of a flower in the image below.


Click on image to see in full size.

I have had some success doing something similar with my iPhone 5C using the Camera+ app which gives me some manual control. You will need to play with it for a while before you get the results that you want. It’s also too easy to hit the Delete button when you were aiming for the Edit button. I wonder if that is a valid excuse to trade up to a newer iPhone. Brad, where are you when I need you!

Some of the things to consider:
(1) Use an aperture as low as possible. My camera only gets down to f2.8. But you work with what you have!
(2) Or you can alternatively just zoom in.
(3) Or just get close to your subject and focus on it. This will make the background look soft and out of focus.
(4) Or try to put some distance between the foreground subject and the background.

Here is an example of a portrait taken in a similar way to give a blurred background.


Example of a portrait with a blurred background to make the person stand out more. Source:

It is also possible to use a filter in PS/PE to blur the back ground. For more information on this method, you can try these websites:

October Challenge
Use one of your own still life floral images as the basis. Then carefully follow each step in this tutorial –

Send your before and after jpgs to me to post on to the website. My email is

Hopefully the session on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at the Photoshop SIG has given you a few things to try with your images (Vibrance tool, creating a bokeh background, and using a PS/PE filter to create a soft out of focus background).

I would love to receive some of your before and after shots to put up on the website  so that we can add them to the discussion for the next SIG.

That’s all, folks!

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What’s happening in the October Photoshop SIG

Photoshop Training Room
Bill Oldham:
Photoshop SIG website:


Example for October Challenge: Create a bokeh background and then blend it with an image of a flower.

Breaking News
The AUSOM COM and the Photography SIG have arranged for Lightroom to be the topic  or the first six meetings of 2017.

The Photoshop SIG aims to present a new topic each month to meet requests from its members. This is followed up with a monthly challenge to encourage members to try out what they were shown at the SIG or that they read about on the SIG website.

In general the SIG tries to cover both Photoshop Elements (PE) and Photoshop (PS)
users. However, there may be times when a Photoshop feature is not part of Photoshop Elements.

Last month in the September SIG
(1) We more than doubled our numbers for the September SIG. Just as I was patting myself on the back thinking that I was getting a reputation for being a marvelous SIG leader, one of the new arrivals announced that the iPad SIG had been canceled. So that explained the sudden increase in the number of people at the Photoshp SIG.

(2) Because we had so many new faces, we did a bit of a review of opening an image, duplicating the background layer, and playing with the Blend modes and Opacity slider. This was followed with a brief review of the Shadow and Highlights tool (with the warning that it was a destructive edit and to use it carefully) and the Levels tool from the previous month. We discussed the ways that you could correct under and over exposed images and how to remove or add a colour cast.

(3) In the remaining time we discussed ways to use the Colour Balance tool and the Hue and Saturation tool to enhance images and to create some artistic effects. A good website for this is here –

This month in the October SIG
The first topic for October is going to be a conclusion to the five image enhancement tools when we discuss how the Vibrance tool may be used to moderately increase the midtone colours in a photo. More information on this can be found here:

The second topic is going to be how to create bokeh in an image with Photoshop. Bokeh is defined as “the visual quality of  the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.” (From

Every time that I try to pronounce this term, I have to look it up at

These are some websites that you might want to look at before the September SIG meeting.

I hope that you have a chance to try these tutorials and share your experiences with each other at the September SIG meeting.

October Challenge
Use one of your own still life floral images as the basis. Then carefully follow each step in this tutorial –

Send your before and after jpgs to me to post on to the website. My email is

Photoshop one on one
If anyone wants to sit down with me for a one on one Photoshop session, please let me know. It’s BYOC. Please email me at to arrange a time, if you interested.

Hope to see you there.

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Photoshop SIG for September, 2016

Photoshop Skills(1) (1)

There are several different methods that may be used to enhance your photos. This method discussed last month and this month consists of the following order of steps:
(1) Shadow and Highlights tool,
(2) Levels tool
(3) Colour Balance tool
(4) Hue and Saturation tool
(5) Vibrance tool

This month’s discussion will be about tools (3), (4) and (5). These are tools in PS/PE that can be used to enhance or correct faults with an image.

Breaking News
There have been requests in both the Photoshop and Photography SIGS to spend some time on an introduction to Lightroom.

This will be done in the first six months of 2017 during the Photography SIG. We are looking for interested parties to run the Intro to Lightroom sessions. Please share your expertise with us.

Further Information

Tonal Balance –

Colour Balance –

The Colour Balance Tool
Let’s start with a short video to get the overall picture (Very punny, Bill.)

(1) Open up you image in PS/PE.
(2) Duplicate the layer using Control + J as a keyboard short cut. I then set the Blend Mode to Multiply to darken the image. I then adjusted the Opacity down a tad
(3) Click on Layer/New Adjustment Layer/Color Balance. Or click on the icon at the bottom of the Layers Tool as shown here:

Image 1 - open the color balance tool

Click on image to see as full size.

(4) Here is the tool box that comes up in CS6.

Image 2 - colour balance toolbox

Did you notice the reflection of the handsome photographer?

(5) Now it is simply  a case of experimenting with the sliders for the different colours with the shadows, midtones and highlights.
(6) Best to leave the  Preserve Luminosity box ticked. It lightens or darkens the colour so that after changing the colours, the apparent brightness is still the same.

Here is the final version.

Image 3 - final version colour balance toolbox

Click on image to see in full size.

Well, that was a brief discussion of the Colour Balance tool. Let’s move on to the Hue/Saturation tool.

The Hue/Saturation tool.
Here is a good explanation of why we need something besides just the colour balance tool.

“So far I hope I’ve berated the point that Color Balance is just what name implies, a fine balance. It should be apparent by now that most color adjustments made to the image will directly affect the rest of the color in the image. For example, you can’t seem to increase the amount of Green without decreasing the Magenta in an image.

This problem is called “crossover,” and can be very frustrating if, for instance, you like the amount of Magenta in an image, but want to increase the Green.

Photoshop has two powerful tools that will aid you in this battle, and will decrease the amount of crossover. They are the Hue/Saturation tool . . .” (Source:

Here is a video that shows us how to use the Hue/Saturation Tool like a delicate scalpel rather than a sledge hammer.

Well, I don’t think that I can do any better than that video for a good explanation. So let’s take a photo and give it a try.
(1) Open up a snapshot that you want to enhance,

Note: This is a camera raw file that I am using. It opens up in in Adobe Camera Raw. I have chosen Shade as the White Balance and then clicked on the Auto below the top two sliders. This gives me a good place to start. Looks like this:

Image 4 - hue and sat in ACR

Click on image to in full size. You may be wondering, “What is that?” A shot of a rock on the beach at low tide  with bits of sea weed on it. Followed by, “Why would you take a photo of that?”

(2) Control + J to duplicate it.
(3) Play with the Blend modes and Opacity controls for a bit. I settled for Colour Burn blend mode and 100% opacity.
(4) Save as a .psd version 1 so that you can come back to this as a starting point.
(5) Press control + 0 (zero) to fill your screen.
(6) Click on Layer/New Adjustment Layer/Hue/Saturation.

That’s as far as we got in the last September SIG. That leaves us the Vibrance tool to start the discussion for the October SIG.

That’s all, folks!

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Photoshop SIG for August, 2016

Photoshop Tools to Help You Enhance your Photos.

Photoshop Training Room
Bill Oldham:
Photoshop SIG website: http://2014photoshopsig.

The next two months are going to provide a deeper discussion of some of the tools that you can use in Photoshop to enhance your snapshots. The ideas presented in this article are from the Digital Photography School (DPS) website (

Here is a quote from the Digital Photography School listed above that encourages us to strike a balance when we use Photoshop to enhance a photograph:

“Photoshop is the KEY to making your good images look spectacular. Yes, I said “good” images. Photoshop is not about fixing mistakes or trying to rescue a bad shot. It is more about refining your images and making them look amazing without overdoing it.”

There are several different methods that may be used to enhance your photos. This method discussed today consists of the following order of steps:
(1) Shadow and Highlights tool,
(2) Levels tool
(3) Colour Balance tool
(4) Hue and Saturation tool
(5) Vibrance tool

Before and After
Here are the before and after images of a shot with my iPhone 5C last year that I enhanced following the five steps.

 Before and After

So let’s get started with a deeper look at some of these tools.

The Shadow and Highlights tool
Just as a preliminary thought – you can use the HDR mode on your camera/phone/tablet to bring out all the detail in the shadows.

The Shadows and Highlights tool is a destructive edit. It is not part of the group of non destructive adjustment layers. So before you apply it, make a copy of your background layer.
(1) Open your image in PS/PE.
(2) Duplicate the background layer by pressing Control + J as a keyboard short cut.
(3) Double click on the Layer 1 text and rename it Shadows and Highlights Edit.
(4) Press Enter to accept the new name of your layer.
(5) Click on Image/Adjustments/Shadows and Highlights.

Image 3 - Click on Image-Adjustments-Shadows and Highlights

Click on Image/Adjustments/Shadows and Highlights

You should get a dialogue box that looks like this. If you have the shortened version, simply click on the Show More Options tick box.

Image 4 - Dialogue Box

Dialogue Box

According to DPS, this tool is best for bringing out detail in the shadows and not too crash hot on the highlights. So the guide line is only use it for the shadow detail. But do try the highlights and Adjustments sections of the dialogue box. I was presently surprised at how much better the highlights were improved in my snapshot of a flower.

(6) Click on the Preview tick box a few times so that you get used to seeing the before and after effects of your adjustments.
(7) Set the amount to 33% for a start point.
(8) Line up the Tonal Width and Radius sliders with the Amount so that they all read about 33%. Why do it this way? Because it is decreed by the Photoshop gurus.

But this is also a chance to have a play with the sliders and see what effects that you can come up with. You may be surprised like I was.

(9) Now observe the changes in Before and After by trying the Amount sliders at say 50% and 75%. And then vary the tonal Width and the Radius sliders to see what other changes that you come up with and want to keep.
(10) When you use the Amount sliders in the Shadows/Highlights tool, you may lose some saturation. Use the Colour Correction slider in the adjustments part of the panel to increase the saturation to what you had before or even give it a bit more.
(11) Finally, adjust the Midtone Contrast slider and see how it affects or improves your photo.

Further Information
To find out a lot more about the Shadows/Highlights tools, you can try these websites for both video and pdf formats.
(1) – pdf format.
(2) – video format. (Well, duh, Bill. That’s what YouTube is!)
(3) – this is one is simple and informative. Try it first.
(4) – this is an in depth and easily understood article. Worth a look.

An aside – As I write this on Saturday, August 6, 2016, I am now using two monitors. The new one actually shows the same colours as the printer. My old monitor was about 12 years old. I never had the motivation to try the whole colour calibration with Spyder and software. Instead I would add a curves layer that would get close to the printer after printing several tries.

I can now report that I wished that I had this a lot sooner.

Using the Levels tool
Die hard Photoshop fans will always argue over which is the better tool – Levels or Curves.

Today we will have a look at using the levels tool to control the contrast/Exposure in your snapshot and to adjust the colour as well.

Here is the photo that we were using before with the Shadows/Highlights tool.

Before Photoshop enhancement

Before Photoshop enhancement

Adding an Adjustment layer
(1) Click on Layer/New Adjustment Layer/Levels. Looks like this:

Image 2 - opening an adjustment Layer

Adding an adjustment layer

The first thing to play with is the Presets.
(2) Click on the Drop down arrow as shown below and select Darken.

Image 3 - Presets in Levels

Using the Presets (shown in the red outline) in the Levels tool.

(3) Use your up and down keys to cycle through the eight choices so that you can compare the results.
The only problem with this is trying to remember which one that you liked better. Eventually you can get it down to one or two choices. I settled for the Increase Contrast 3 Preset.
(4) You can also click on the Auto button to see what photoshop thinks is best for you. You generally conclude that photoshop has very poor judgement compared to your own selection. Have faith in yourself!
(5) Compare the before and after by clicking the Eyeball of Death next to the Levels Layer on the left.

About the Histogram (the white blobby thingamajig)
Here is an explanation from Sean McHugh’s Cambridge in Colour website (

The levels tool can move and stretch brightness levels in a histogram using three main components: a black point, white point and midtone slider. The position of the black and white point sliders redefine the histogram’s “Input Levels” so they are mapped to the “Output Levels” (default is black (0) or white (255), respectively), whereas the midtone slider redefines the location of middle gray (128). Each slider is shown below as they appear in Photoshop’s levels tool, with added blue labels for clarity:

Levels in Photoshop

Some of you may have noticed a similar graph on the back of your camera when you take a photo. It can be used to help set your camera to the best exposure. You can get more info on this from the Photography SIG members for the price of a cup of coffee. Or better yet for free.

Failing that, then try these two websites for a bit more information than you might want:

(6) Do it yourself! Click on the right triangle on the right and slowly drag it back to the left until you get to the start of the hill. You should see a dramatic change. Hopefully! here is my photo again.


Image 4 - adjusting the white set point by moving it to the left.

Click on image to see full size. it shows adjusting the white set point by moving it to the left.

The slider on the left is for the blacks. It starts at a value of 0. The midtones have an initial value of 1.0 and the whites start off at 255.
(7) Repeat this for the black slider on the left.
(8) Now the same again with the mid tones slider. Here is what I finished up with:
Black as 10, Mid-tone as 0.76 and Whites as 205.

Image 5 - adjusting the blasck and mid tone set points

If you are looking at this on the website, you can see the increase in the colour saturation.

So that is the first part of using the Levels tool to change the contrast across one of your photos when it is over or under exposed. The next task of the Levels is to do some colour correction. Here’s how.

Colour Correction with the Levels tool
Back at the start of this article, we mentioned the Presets may be all that you need. If you want to take it a bit further, then we do the same tasks with the sliders again. But now we use the Red, Green and Blue channels for this.


I hope that this article will get you started using the Shadows/Highlights tool for a quick and easy starting point to enhance your photos.

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Retirees SIG on July 13, 2016 at Balwyn Baptist Church


You can down load the notes for the Audacity presentation by clicking on the link below:

That’s all, folks!

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