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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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