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Lighting Your Image

Overexposed background images and underexposed foreground subjects are a common problem for most amateur photographers. Photoshop Elements provides an elegant tool to help salvage your otherwise perfect compositions. Much like the Levels command, it operates on pixels in specific tonal ranges (either highlights or shadows) while leaving the other tonal ranges alone. A Lighten Shadows slider helps to add detail to areas in shadow, whereas a Darken Highlights slider can add detail to washed-out areas in the background.

To improve foreground detail:

  1. From the Enhance menu, choose Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights. The Shadows/Highlights dialog box appears ( Figure 3.29 ).
    03fig29.gif

    Figure 3.29 The Shadows/Highlights dialog box.

  2. In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, do one or all of the following:
    • Drag the Lighten Shadows slider to the right to lessen the effect of the shadows, or to the left to introduce shadow back into the image.
    • Drag the Darken Highlights slider to the right until you're satisfied with the detail in the foreground or other brightly lit areas.
    • Drag the Midtone Contrast slider to the right to increase the contrast, or to the left to decrease the contrast.
  3. Click OK to close the Shadows/Highlights dialog box and apply the changes ( Figure 3.30 ).
    03fig30.gif

    Figure 3.30 The top photo is very under exposed in the foreground, so detail in the woman's face is hidden in shadow. In the bottom photo, making adjustments with the Lighten Shadows and the Midtone Contrast sliders selectively brightens and enhances detail in both her face and shirt.

To improve background detail:

  1. From the Enhance menu, choose Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights.
  2. In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, drag the sliders as described in the preceding procedure until you're satisfied with the contrast and detail in the background or in other brightly lit areas.
  3. Click OK to apply the change ( Figure 3.31 ).
    03fig31.gif

    Figure 3.31 The top photo suffers from underexposure problems throughout both the foreground and the background. In the bottom photo, making adjustments with all three Shadows/Highlights sliders restores the lost detail in the women's faces and in the background storefronts.

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