Thanks to the many color and tone correcting tools in Photoshop, you can enhance and edit your digital photos as needed until they appear just as you want them to. In other words, just because you can't capture the right colors and tones in-camera doesn't mean you don't have a great photo on your hands.
Using the easy method below, you can quickly adjust the colors and tones of any digital photograph, whether it was taken on location or in a studio setting.
Correcting the Levels
The first step in this process involves adjusting the levels within your photo appropriately so that the lightest and darkest areas will have plenty of detail. To access the Levels dialog box, head over to the Image menu and click on Adjustments and then Levels.
At the bottom of the box that opens, you should see three small icons that look like eyedroppers. You'll first work on the one that's located all the way to the right. This is your white point dropper. Double-click it to open the Color Picker window.
The window will list R, G, and B (red, green, and blue). Edit the value for each of these colors by typing 245 into the box next to each letter. Then head back to the Levels dialog box.
The next eyedropper you select will be the one on the left. This is your black point eyedropper. Upon selecting it, you'll once again see the Color Picker pop up with the values for R, G, and B again. But this time, insert 10 as the value for each.
Once you've changed the values, close out of all of the dialog boxes. You even have the option of setting these as your default levels so they'll automatically be applied to all images from now on.
Fixing the Darkest and Lightest Parts of an Image
The next step involves balancing the highlights, which are the brightest areas in a photo. This will ensure that plenty of details are apparent rather than washed out.
Within the Layers palette, select New Adjustment Layer and then click on the Threshold option. A box will open with a slider that you should adjust by moving it completely to the right until the photo is entirely black.
Once your image is black, start sliding slowly and carefully towards the left. Once you reach the area where white begins to show up in the image, stop. In doing so, you've established where the highlights are. Mouse over these areas, hold Shift and click on the highlights, leaving behind what's known as a target marker.
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To find the blackest areas of the image and mark them, slide to the left until the photo is totally white. Then start the process again, sliding slowly and carefully towards the right until black spots appear that you can then mark.
Once finished, be sure to close out the Threshold Layer.
Adding a New Layer
In your Layers palette, you'll once again have to select the New Adjustment Layer, but click on Levels instead. A dialog box will appear and the target markers you left on the photo will be visible.
Using the white point eyedropper, click the first target marker that you set. This will correct any color and tone issues in the highlights. Then use the black point eyedropper and click on the other target marker you left in order to correct the shadows.
Adjusting Midtones and Clearing the Markers
Adjusting the midtones is really only necessary if you find that the photo is too dark. You can find the midtones slider in the Levels box. Just move the slider slowly because you'll probably only need to make minor adjustments.
Finally, to make sure the target markers are gone, select the Tools palette. Find the Color Sampler Tool by clicking the eyedropper and holding it. Then head to the Options Bar where you'll find the button to clear them.
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Ready for More Editing Tricks?
Once you realize how much power you have when it comes to editing your images in Photoshop, you may be ready to learn a lot more and bring your skills to a new level. Consider subscribing to the PT community, where you'll be able to connect with other photographers, share your work, and take lessons to continually improve.