Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Photoshop Elements

This chapter is from the book

Color Correcting Digital Camera Images

Ever wonder why the term “color correction” gets thrown around so much? That’s because every digital camera (and even most scanners used for capturing traditional photos) puts its little signature (i.e., color cast) on your photos. Most times it’s a red cast, but it can also be blue or green. Don’t get me wrong—they are getting better, but the color cast is still there. Here’s how to help combat those color problems in Elements:

  • Step One: Open the digital camera photo you want to color correct. (The photo shown here doesn’t look too bad, but as we go through the correction process, you’ll see that, like most photos, it really needed a correction.)


    Click to view larger image

  • Step Two: Go under the Enhance menu, under Adjust Lighting, and choose Levels (or press Ctrl-L). The dialog may look intimidating at first, but the technique you’re going to learn here requires no previous knowledge of Levels, and it’s so easy, you’ll be correcting photos using Levels immediately.
  • Step Three: First, we need to set some preferences in the Levels dialog so we’ll get the results we’re after when we start correcting. We’ll start by setting a target color for our shadow areas. To set this preference, in the Levels dialog, double-click on the black Eyedropper tool (it’s on the right-hand side of the dialog, the first Eyedropper from the left). A Color Picker will appear asking you to “Select target shadow color.” This is where we’ll enter values that, when applied, will help remove any color casts your camera introduced in the shadow areas of your photo.
  • Step Four: We’re going to enter values in the R, G, and B (red, green, and blue) fields of this dialog.

    For R, enter 10

    For G, enter 10

    For B, enter 10

  • Step Five: Now we’ll set a preference to make our highlight areas neutral. Double-click on the highlight Eyedropper (the third of the three Eyedroppers in the Levels dialog). The Color Picker will appear asking you to “Select target highlight color.” Click in the R field, and then enter these values:

    For R, enter 240

    For G, enter 240

    For B, enter 240

    Then click OK to set those values as your highlight target.

  • Step Six: Finally, set your midtone preference. You know the drill—double-click on the midtones Eyedropper (the middle of the three Eyedroppers) so you can “Select target midtone color.” Enter these values in the R, G, and B fields (if they’re not already there by default):

    For R, enter 128

    For G, enter 128

    For B, enter 128

    Then click OK to set those values as your midtone target.

  • Step Seven: Okay, you’ve entered your preferences (target colors), so go ahead and click OK in the Levels dialog (without making any changes to your image). You’ll get an alert dialog asking you if you want to “Save the new target colors as defaults?” Click Yes, and from that point on, you won’t have to enter these values each time you correct a photo, because they’ll already be entered for you—they’re now the default settings.
  • Step Eight: You’re going to use these Eyedropper tools that reside in the Levels dialog to do most of your correction work. Your job is to determine where the shadow, midtone, and highlight areas are, and click the right Eyedropper in the right place (you’ll learn how to do that in just a moment). So remember your job—find the shadow, midtone, and highlight areas and click the right Eyedropper in the right spot. Sounds easy, right? It is. You start by opening Levels and setting the shadows first, so you’ll need to find an area in your photo that’s supposed to be black. If you can’t find something that’s supposed to be the color black, then it gets a bit trickier—in the absence of something black, you have to determine which area in the image is the darkest. If you’re not sure where the darkest part of the photo is, you can use the following trick to have Elements tell you exactly where it is.
  • Step Nine: Go to the top of the Layers palette and click on the half-black/half-white circle icon to bring up the Create Adjustment Layer pop-up menu. When the pop-up menu appears, choose Threshold, which brings up a dialog with a histogram and a slider under it.
  • Step 10: When the Threshold dialog appears, drag the Threshold Level slider under the histogram all the way to the left. Your photo will turn completely white. Slowly drag the slider back to the right, and as you do, you’ll start to see some of your photo reappear. The first area that appears is the darkest part of your image. That’s it—that’s Elements telling you exactly where the darkest part of the image is. Now that you know where your shadow area is, make a mental note of its location, but don’t click OK yet. Now to find a white area in your image.
  • Step 11: If you can’t find an area in your image that you know is supposed to be white, you can use the same technique to find the highlight areas. With the Threshold dialog still open, drag the slider all the way to the right. Your photo will turn black. Slowly drag the slider back toward the left, and as you do, you’ll start to see some of your photo reappear. The first area that appears is the lightest part of your image. Make a mental note of this area as well (yes, you have to remember two things, but you have to admit, it’s easier than remembering two PIN numbers). You’re now done with Threshold, so just click Cancel because you don’t actually need the adjustment layer anymore.
  • Step 12: Press Ctrl-L to bring up the Levels dialog again. First, select the shadow Eyedropper (the one half-filled with black) from the right side of the Levels dialog. Move your cursor outside the Levels dialog into your photo and click once in the area that Elements showed you was the darkest part of the photo (in Step 10). When you click there, you’ll see the shadow areas correct. (Basically, you just reassigned the shadow areas to your new neutral shadow color—the one you entered earlier as a preference in Step Four.) If you click in that spot and your photo now looks horrible, you either clicked in the wrong spot or what you thought was the shadow point actually wasn’t. Undo the setting of your shadow point by clicking the Reset button in the dialog and try again. If that doesn’t work, don’t sweat it; just keep clicking in areas that look like the darkest part of your photo until it looks right.
  • Step 13: While still in the Levels dialog, click on the highlight Eyedropper (the one half-filled with white). Move your cursor over your photo and click once on the lightest part (the one you committed to memory in Step 11) to assign that as your highlight. You’ll see the highlight colors correct.
  • Step 14: Now that the shadows and highlights are set, you’ll need to set the midtones in the photo. It may not look as if you need to set them, because the photo may look properly corrected, but chances are there’s a cast in the midtone areas. You may not recognize the cast until you’ve corrected it and it’s gone, so it’s worth giving it a shot to see the effect (which will often be surprisingly dramatic). Unfortunately, there’s no Threshold adjustment layer trick that works well for finding the midtone areas, so you have to use some good old-fashioned guesswork (or try “Dave’s Amazing Trick for Finding a Neutral Gray” in this chapter). Ideally, there’s something in the photo that’s gray, but not every photo has a “gray” area, so look for a neutral area (one that’s obviously not a shadow, but not a highlight either). Click the middle (gray) Eyedropper in that area. If it’s not right, click the Reset button and repeat Steps 12 through 14.
  • Step 15: There’s one more important adjustment to make before you click OK in the Levels dialog and apply your correction. Under the Histogram (that’s the black mountain-range-looking thing), click on the center slider (the Midtone Input Levels slider—that’s why it’s gray) and drag it to the left a bit to brighten the midtones of the image. This is a visual adjustment, so it’s up to you to determine how much to adjust, but it should be subtle—just enough to bring out the midtone detail. When it looks right to you, click OK to apply your correction to the highlights, midtones, and shadows, removing any color casts and brightening the overall contrast.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020