In this tutorial, we'll be looking at some other adjustment tools.

First, we'll explore an easy one - the Auto Color Adjustment tool. It's found under Images-Adjustments in the menus. There is no preview option, so you apply it and either like what it does or choose Undo (Control or Command-Z) to return to the original. What this tool does is look for a bias toward one color and does its best to neutralize the bias - here's an example where it worked well:


This is Hemerocallis 'Pandora's Box; - the image on the left was taken in early morning light and has a very yellow cast, the Auto Color Adjustment fixed things pretty well. When you are not sure about how to adjust the color of an image, sometimes the computer does a better job of determining the bias than we do, however, this appears to work best with whites and pastels, darker colors are less apt to be corrected with the Auto Color Adjust. Try the Auto Levels and Auto Contrast controls too to see what they do - you may be surprised and delighted at times.

Perhaps one of my favorite tools for making adjustments appeared in Photoshop CS and it's also in CS2 and CS3 - I'm not sure if it appears in the newer version of Photoshop Elements - but I suppose there have to be some tools only available in the 'big' version to justify the higher price.

This tool is the Shadow/Highlight... Adjustment tool, again found in the Image-Adjustments menu. This tool was designed to recover shadow detail when shadows are too dark, and highlight details when colors are totally washed out. Let me step outside of flower photography to demonstrate the "classic" situation- a photo taken inside a building with bright light outside and facing an exterior window. Unless you are metering the scene carefully the brighter exterior light will throw anything inside into silhouette. This tool can brighten/lighten the shadows. Here's an example taken at the Dune Gallery on Prince Edward Island:


The photo on the left is as taken, by applying the Shadow/Highlights tool I can see details that are 'missing' in the original - like the painting on the wall beside the circular window on the right. Let's look at the dialog box and some flower pictures now...


The dialog opens with the default setting of shadow reduction at 50%. Note that there is a checked Preview box, so if you open this tool, as you make adjustments to the slider you will see the results in real time in the image.

I find this tool most helpful when I'm stuck shooting by myself on a sunny day. Typically in bright sunlight shadows tend to be deep and part of the blooms are often washed out.

This tool can lighten the background and recover details in highlights without significantly affecting the hue or colors in the image. Let's look at an example.

Before Round

Typical shot in bright sunlight, deep shadows behind and parts of the petals almost washed out. A histogram (see Tutorial 5) would show spikes at both ends of the chart, lots of near black and near white areas.

I first opened the Shadows/Highlights Filter and got the results in the image below left.

50% Round

At the default 50% Shadow adjustment you get this - notice how the background has been lightened but how the bloom has hardly been altered at all.

I find this background a bit too light. However, if someone is attempting to print a picture such as this in a newsletter it may be beneficial to play some with the background values to find which print best.

Notice too that the adjustment to the shadows did little to remedy the washed out petals areas.

However, there's also a Highlights slider which, by default is set to zero. Moving that will recover some light areas.

In the image below I set the shadow slider back to 30% and increased the highlight shadow to 20% which recovers some petal detail and color and also reveals some diamond dusting as well.

2030 Round

I encourage you to play with this tool quite a bit, even small 3-4% adjustments can make a big difference in many images, reducing the contrast without affecting the hues.

Notice that there are slightly pink mid-ribs in this flower and how they are revealed better in this lower image.

Warning, over adjustments are gaudy and adversely affect the background or hues in many images, playing with the Preview will teach you when too far is too far.

Even pictures taken in shadow can benefit from small adjustments from this tool.

More examples below, before pictures on the left and after adjustments on the right.

The adjustments are best when subtle, but try and see.

AA Before
AA After
red b4 ref after
red eye before red eye after

Last of all in this tutorial I want to mention the Photo Filters Adjustment Tool - found in same Image-Adjustments menu, this tool offers to adjust the image as if the three most common photographic cooling and warming filters used by some photograhers had been on the lenses when the images were taken. Again, you have a preview and can see for yourself how these work. I chose a fairly close white flower to try these on, it makes the changes more obvious but they can be applied to any image with the same results. I encourage you to give these a try too.

Remember you can always Cancel or close an image without saving - be bold, experiment and find out what these tools can do for your photos too.

One last comment - the adjustment tools are marvels and can really help save some marginal images and improve good ones too, but they can also be used to "pump up" the color irresponsibly as well so be aware that the more dramatic the adjustment, the closer you get to crossing the line between fact and fiction. If in question, keep it subtle and closer to the original image.

Next time, we'll look at Photoshop layers.

Tim Fehr - Eau Claire, WI

© 2007 by Tim Fehr - all rights reserved.