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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Enchancing Highlights and Shadows

This Photoshop tutorial will show you an incredibly effective way to enhance shadows and highlights within your digital images. You can create very interesting effects by using more prominent levels adjustments, or create subtle effects by using more slight levels adjustments. This tutorial does everything in a non-destructive way, which allows you to tweak the shadows and highlights at anytime.

Shadows and highlights help add more drama to an image, which is a simple way to bring the viewer into the image. The perceived dimension in the image is also heightened as the shadows and highlights are increased.

  1. Step 1: Preparation
    Open your image and then duplicate the image layer by pressing ctrl (command) + j on the keyboard. Set the blend mode for this duplicate layer to color. Next, select the layer below the duplicate in the layers palette.
  2. Step 2: Add Levels Adjustment Layer
    Select layer > new adjustment layer > levels from the menu set the mode to pin light, and then click OK. The pin light mode is the key to this technique because it allows only lighter or darker areas to change.

    The values you use for the levels will vary from image to image, but the key is to drag the right hand sliders to the left to increase highlights, and drag the left hand sliders to the right to increase shadows.

You can switch the channel you are working on from RGB to Red, Green, or Blue from the channel drop down in the levels dialog box. The settings used for this image are in the listing below, but again each image will have a fair amount of variance so you will need to make adjustments based on the levels in your image. The reason for adjusting the levels of the different channels is that it allows changes to the shadows and highlights based on the color, and you are able to make more subtle adjustments.

As will all levels adjustments, you will need to be careful to avoid introducing banding within your image. High-bit images don't really have this problem, but images in the common 8-bit format may introduce banding if the adjustments are too high.
After you have made your levels adjustments and you are pleased with the way everything looks, click OK. You can adjust the intensity of shadows and highlights that appear by painting on the layer mask for the levels adjustment layer. Black will completely hide the effect, and white will show it. You can make subtle adjustments by using a light gray color to paint the mask, or use black with a low opacity.

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