Fixing Shadows and Highlights

One of the most flexible image adjustment commands is called Shadow/Highlight. The purpose of the adjustment is to help salvage images where the subject is silhouetted due to strong backlight. It can also be used to improve subjects who have been washed out by the camera's flashbulb. The command does not just lighten or darken an image; rather it makes adjustments based on neighboring pixels.

When first opened the tool is too basic, offering just two sliders. However, clicking on the Show More Options box opens this tool up significantly. Let's give it a try:

Step 1. Open the file Ch09_Shadow_Highlights1.tif.

Step 2. Choose Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight.

Step 3. Be sure that both the Preview box and Show More Options box are checked.

Step 4. Adjust the Shadows and Highlights.

• Amount: How strong of an adjustment is made.

• Tonal Width: Small values affect a smaller region; larger values will begin to include the midtones. If you push these values too high, you will get halos around the images.

• Radius: A tolerance setting that looks at neighboring pixels to determine the affected area.

Step 5. Apply Image Adjustments to improve image quality.

• Color Correction: Essentially adjusts the saturation of the adjusted areas. This allows you to counterbalance washed-out images. This is only available for color images.

• Brightness: If you are working with a grayscale image, Color Correction is replaced by a control for Brightness.

• Midtone Contrast: This command affects missing contrast in the midtones of an image. Negative values reduce contrast, positive values increase contrast.

• Black Clip and White Clip: Raises the black point of shadows and lowers the white point of highlights. This is good to lower the intensity of the effect. You will still want to adjust broadcast-safe levels using the Levels command for finer control.

Step 6. Click Save if you want to reuse the adjustment later, otherwise Click OK.

While this command simplifies the process of fixing shadow/ highlight problems, it is not available as an Adjustment Layer. Therefore, it is a destructive editing command, which means you should work with a duplicate file or layer so you can return to the original photo if needed.

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