Photoshop levels

by Design Workshop Sydney

When you add a new image to a web banner or image for print you should always check the tonal Levels and possibly the Hue/Saturation. This will improve the image in the majority of cases and give you a more dynamic end result.photoshop-levels We demonstrate how in our Adobe Photoshop courses.
The reason for this is that digital cameras often perform automatic tonal and colour adjustments, and because they are automatic and not aesthetically directed, they may not be the best possible option for this image. So you need to do it yourself to ensure the best result. Even professional photographers have to make these adjustments. The most common would be a Levels adjustment, creating a redistribution of the pixel tonal values from pure black to pure white.
There are two ways of doing this. First is the older method of going to the top Image drop down menu and choosing Adjustments > Levels. This will open a dialog box like the one pictured here in the screen shot. You will notice a gradient bar at the bottom of the box. Just ignore this – this is ink levels used by printers – unless you’re a professional printer it’ll result in a messy result. The one we want is the top Input levels histogram. Photographic images are stored by the software as a series of pixels, each one of which has a number for colour and brightness. These numbers are plotted onto a graph, which you see here.
Note the pure black and pure white stops and the mid tone grey stop. First bring the pure black inwards by a few millimeters – note the changes in the image on your screen. (Make sure that Preview is ticked whenever you open a dialog box like this.) Then pull the white stop inwards by a few millimeters. Note that if you pull either in by a large degree the whole image turns black or white – obviously not the result we want. So only a few millimeters for both of these, always looking at the image itself – this is an aesthetic decision on your part. Lastly adjust the mid tone grey stop upwards or downwards, meanwhile looking at the image itself. If there is a human figure in the image take special notice of the eyes and face, since this is where our eyes are naturally drawn.
Toggle Preview button off and on to see a before and after effect. If you are happy with the result hit OK. Note that this is a permanent change (unless you hit Ctrl+Z or go back in the History panel), so be careful and never save over your original image – always re-save as a new version.
A better method is to create an Adjustment layer – these are located above your Layers panel on the right hand side, and contain the same adjustments as the top Image > Adjustments list. The difference is that the adjustment performed creates a layer on top, like a filter. This will be saved with the document, and can be double-clicked on later to alter the effect. This is known as non-destructive editing and is the preferred method by professionals.
Many more tips and techniques can be found at the Adobe website. And see many examples of our clients’ work on our Facebook page.
Other related Photoshop Blog Posts: