Photos are the heart of most scrapbook layouts. Did you capture the perfect moment but your photo is dark? One quick way to edit your photos is to adjust the Levels in Photoshop. This tutorial was written using Photoshop CS5 but the process is similar for other versions and Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
We will use this photo of my husband and son for this tutorial.
1. Select the photo layer
2. Make sure it is editable (rasterize any smart objects or double click on a background layer)
3. Use any of the following to open the Levels window:
– go to the Image menu and select Adjustments and then Levels
– select Ctrl+L on a PC
– select Cmd+L on a Mac
The histogram shows the distribution of color in our photo. There are several ways to edit the levels
– use the Auto button
– use the black, midtone or white dropper tools
– manually adjust the black, midtone and/or white sliders
When the Auto button is selected, the colors in the photo are adjusted by Photoshop.
|photo edited using the Auto button|
You can see the shift of colors in the histogram of the Levels window.
The dropper tools are a quick way to edit photos. From left to right the droppers are black, midtone and white. Dropper tool success is dependent on the colors of the photos and the color sample that is selected. If the tool did not have the desired effect, try selecting another area in the photo.
To use the black dropper tool select it and then examine the photo and find an area that should be pure black. I found a darker black area in the folds of my husband’s black shorts and used the dropper tool and selected it. The dropper tool will then remap the colors based on the sampled selection being the darkest black RGB(0,0,0) or #000000 (by default). You can see there is very little change in the histogram and little change in the photo.
|photo edited using the black dropper tool|
The midtone (or gray) dropper is used in a similar way. Select the middle dropper tool and sample an area in the photo that should be gray. I sampled an area on my husbands hat. Depending on where I sampled the colors of the image varied slightly.
|photo edited using the midtone (gray) dropper tool|
In the following photo I used the white dropper tool to select one of the whiter areas in my husband’s shirt.
|photo edited using the white dropper tool|
You can see in the histogram that the white color shifted to the left which makes the image brighter. The white dropper tool is great for use with snow photos or any photos with a lot of white.
Manual Adjustment Using Sliders
My favorite way to adjust the levels of a photo is by manually moving the black, white and midtone sliders until my photo looks the way I want. This is my usual method:
– move the white slider to the LEFT until I get my desired brightness
– move the black slider to the RIGHT until I get my desired darkness
– move the midtone slider to the LEFT until I get my desired color saturation
|photo edited manually by moving the black, midtone and white sliders|
Of course that method will vary depending on the photo. Manual adjustment is something that you can play with until your get your desired look. Photoshop is very forgiving and that’s one of the things I love about it!
Using the Levels window in Photoshop is a quick way to edit your photos. There is a little bit of a learning curve but with some practice it will take you 3 seconds to perfectly edit a photo! Give it a try!