Shadow/Highlight Tool

After making the full range of tonal adjustments to an image, the result has good overall tone, but the Shadows and/or Highlights may have become compressed resulting in flat Shadows or Highlights with little detail. The Shadow/ Highlight tool is an effective and easy tool that allows you to restore some of the contrast within the Shadows or Highlights without making significant changes to the overall tone that you have carefully adjusted. The Shadows/Highlight tool is able to determine the areas of the image that contain Shadows or Highlights and edit the local contrast within these areas. The only big limitation of the Shadow/Highlight tool is that it is not available as an adjustment layer; so you will need to make a Merged Image layer on which to perform the Shadow/Highlight adjustment.

For my example image, I will want to make adjustments to both the Shadows and Highlights. If you want to make adjustments to both, I suggest that you perform the Highlights and Shadows adjustments on separate layers so you can change these independently later. I'll start with the Highlights in this example.

First create a new Merged Image layer on which to perform the adjustment. Hit Shif% + E or ctrfy/Iam /

L Shift +E. Change the name for this new layer to "Highlights". See page 24.

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Open the Shadow/Highlight tool by selecting Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight

First change the values for both Shadows and Highlights to zero; the default values are generally way too high. Adjust the value for Highlights to add some detail to the highlights; typically, a value between 2% and 10% is sufficient. Usually that's it. Hit OK to close the dialog.

If you set the value of highlights to a value of 10% or more, the adjustment may result in some minor color changes in the image. Change the blending mode for the "Highlights" layer to luminosity - this eliminates the color changes.

Create another Merged Image layer for the Shadows, and perform the adjustment again to add detail to the Shadows. Again the best range for this tool is usually a range between 2% and 10%.

Restoring detail to the Shadows and Highlights often results in a more natural looking image with

a smoother range of tones from black to white.

The Shadow/ Highlight tool includes more advanced options for adjustments. Selecting the "Show More Options" check box opens these advanced options.

The Amount option is the same option set in the basic dialog, it determines how strongly to apply the Shadow or Highlight adjustment. A large amount will lighten shadows or darken highlights more strongly. Typically, this should be between 2% and 10%.

The Tonal Width option controls the range of tones that are defined as Shadows or Highlights. Again, the default value of 50% is too high; this implies that the Shadows are the 50% darkest pixels in the image. Typically, a range between 20% and 40% works well. I usually set this to 30%.

The Radius option defines the how far around a given Shadow or Highlight pixel will be affected by this adjustment. This option helps localize the affect of this adjustment to the regions of the image that have shadows or highlights. Typically, this value should be large for an image with large areas of shadows or highlights, and small for an image with smaller areas. I typically leave the radius set to 30, but I will adjust the value for images that have particularly large parts of the image that I want to adjust by the shadows or highlights.

If you make changes to these advanced options, you can save these as the defaults by clicking on the Save As Defaults button.

Before the Shadow/Highlight tool was added to Photoshop, I used an unusual curves adjustment layer to perform a similar adjustment. The steps for my Shadow/Highlight adjustment are included on the website.

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