Save those less-than-perfect photos with the use of Levels.
I am working in Photoshop Elements 2018, but this technique works in full versions of Photoshop in the same way.
Here is my original photo. I took it with my cell phone, with the light directly behind my dog, Stella. (She’s in dire need of a bath and haircut, but I love the way she is sitting.)
In Photoshop Elements:
- In Expert Mode, in the Menu bar, go to Enhance / Adjust Lighting / Levels
- In the Menu bar: Image / Adjustments / Levels
Open the Levels dialogue box with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl L (Mac: Cmd L).
Our goal is to reveal more detail in both the darker and lighter areas of the image, then we will adjust the mid-tones.
We will be using the eye-droppers to set our white point and our black point.
- Click on the white eyedropper (far right) to select it, and then click on the photo at the brightest, whitest spot you see.
- Do the same with the black eyedropper.
I clicked on the really light, white part of the fur on Stella’s hair, and on the black of her eye.
Tip: If you don’t like the result you get, you can keep clicking on the image until you find a result that you like. Or Control + Z to undo and try again.
That definitely looks better than the original image, but now let’s adjust the mid-tones. We do this by adjusting the middle slider in the Input Levels. Move the slider to the left to make the mid-tones lighter, and to the right to make them darker.
I moved the slider to the left (1.33) and this was the result: (This is not a magic number. The amount you move the slider will depend upon your photo.)
I hope you find this helpful and that it is a technique that will help you rescue photos that you thought were hopeless.