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.


About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s