Photo Editing for Beginners…Working With Levels

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First things first. Yesterday I made the awful mistake of leaving out one of our FABULOUS sponsors for the month of September. The amazing AMY WOLFF. I don’t know how I did that (oh wait, maybe it was the four kids climbing on me and the one crazy puppy and the VERY pregnant and unhappy kitty all trying to get my attention at once 🙂 In any case, Amy Wolff is part of this month’s lineup for THE DIGI FILES and I didn’t want her to feel left out. Sorry Amy!

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This week I had the pleasure of doing a guest class at our international school for the high school photography class. The teachers asked me to come in and do some beginning photo editing tutorials. These were designed for kids who had little to no Photoshop experience. I decided to teach them my four most used beginner tricks:

  1. Working With Levels
  2. Brightness and Contrast
  3. Screen Layer
  4. Converting to Black and White

Over the course of the last eight months here at THE DAILY DIGI we have looked at a few of these things (screen layer and black and whites). I have skipped the others (levels and brightness and contrast) because they seemed so simple, so beginner-ish. And then I remembered that many of our readers are beginners. I was also reminded that there are so many ways to do things in Photoshop and sometimes even seasoned Photoshop gals can learn something new. And so, I want to share with you the beginner tutorial I wrote for the class on working with levels.

The following tutorial was written for Photoshop CS2 (because that is what the class is using) but will work, with minor varations of menu options and keystrokes, in Photoshop Elements and CS3&4.

The tutorial was not written in a way that explains the technical side of things, but rather, it takes an easy “this is how you do it” approach. I think that when learning Photoshop, knowing all the “whys” can be overwhelming at first. I would rather learn WHAT to do and then later, if I am interested, I can learn WHY it works.

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The Levels tool in Photoshop adjusts the brightness of an image at three points: black, white, and midtones. It is great for brightening up dull images.

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This example image is dark and lifeless. We will use the levels tool to brighten it up.

1. Make sure your layers palette is in view. Go to Window > Layers (or press F7).

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2. Open your image. You layers palette should should one layer (your photo).

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3. Click on the adjustment layer icon (the black and white circle) and choose LEVELS.

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4. A Levels dialogue box will appear that looks like this

levelsdialogue

5. Don’t be intimidated by the box…the levels represent the color points in your image. The goal of a photo is to have the “curve” of colors extend all the to the blacks (the left) and all the way to the whites (right) with a peak in the center (midtones). That would create a photo with the full color range. However, if your photo doesn’t do that you can “help” it.

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Our example photo is missing colors in the white (light) areas.

6. In order to fix that, we are going to drag the white slider to the point that it meets the “black mountain.”

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7. In one quick and easy step your photo will improve dramatically.

alaina_edited

beforeafter

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