Adjusting levels

In my overall-adjustment workflow, the first actual fix I make is adjusting levels — making exact corrections to the tonal values of an image by fine-tuning the colors in the highlights, midtones, and shadows.

To adjust colors and tone using the Levels command, follow these steps:

1. Create a duplicate of the Background layer by choosing LayersODuplicate, typing a new name into the As field

(for example, Duplicate), and clicking OK.

The Duplicate Layer field appears for the purpose, as shown in Figure 10-13.

Okay, this step really doesn't fit any particular niche in my overall-adjustments workflow — but it is a best practice. Always make a duplicate of the background layer before you create any new layers.

2. Create a Levels adjustment layer by clicking the Create New Adjustment or Fill Layer button from the Layer palette (shown in Figure 10-14).

The Levels dialog box appears.

Figure 10-13: Duplicating the Background layer.
Figure 10-14: Creating a Levels adjustment layer.

3. Make sure the Preview box is checked.

Keep the Channel selection RGB, as shown in Figure 10-15. You'll be correcting levels for the entire image — all three color channels (Red, Green, and Blue) at the same time.

As you become more familiar with adjusting levels in Photoshop, experiment with changing the Channel selection to the Red, Green, or Blue channels and adjusting them individually. If you are a new user of Photoshop, keep the RGB Channel selected.

4. View the histogram and slide the Shadows input slider to the right, till it gets to where the curve of the histogram begins (as shown in Figure 10-16).

With Preview selected, you can view the image changes as you move the slider.

Figure 10-15: The Levels adjustment window provides controls to adjust color highlights, midtones, and shadows.
Figure 10-16: Moving the Levels Shadows and Highlights input sliders.

A histogram provides a snapshot of the tonal range of an image. The histogram shows how much detail is in the shadow area on the left, in the midtones in the middle, and in the highlights on the right.

Histogram data is different for every image. For many images, the histogram curve begins all the way to the left, where no Shadow input-slider adjustment is needed.

Slide the Highlights input slider to the left, till it gets to where the highlights curve begins.

With Preview selected, you can view the image changes as you m°ve th0e s7ider, as shown in Figure 10-17: Adjusting shadows, midtones, and igure - . highlights can improve the tonality of the image.

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