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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 levels, 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, while 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 3.32 ).
    03fig32.jpg

    Figure 3.32 The Shadows/Highlights dialog box.

  2. In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, 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.
  3. Drag the Midtone Contrast slider to the right to increase the contrast, or to the left to decrease the contrast.
  4. Click OK to close the Shadows/Highlights dialog box and apply the changes ( Figure 3.33 ).
    03fig33.jpg

    Figure 3.33 The top photo is a little underexposed in the foreground, so detail in the young 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 blouse.

To improve background detail:

  1. From the Enhance menu, choose Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights.
  2. In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, drag the Darken Highlights slider to the right 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 3.34 ).
    03fig34.jpg

    Figure 3.34 The left photo suffers from an overexposed background. In the right photo, making adjustments with the Darken and Highlights slider restores the lost detail in the sky.

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