Essential Photo Editing:
Adjust Levels




adjusted levels
The Adjust Levels command is similar to brightness and contrast, but gives you much more control over the tonal range. This is one of the most powerful and simple photo editing tools.

"Adjust Levels" shows a graph of your image called a histogram.

The histogram is a map of detail
showing shadow detail towards the left
and highlight detail towards the right.

You can adjust the levels by either dragging one of the sliders or by entering a value directly into the box.

Spend a few moments experimenting and you will soon get the hang of it.



Step-By-Step: Adjust Levels

1. open sample image

2. open adjust levels


3. drag the highlight slider left, notice the bright areas get bleached. You are "lowering the white ceiling"


highlight level to 200


4. now drag the shadow slider to the right, notice the dark areas getting deeper. You are "raising the black floor".


highlight level to 200

highlight level set to 200
shadow level set to 50


5. drag the mid-tone (gamma) slider back and forth, notice how it changes the overall brightness but generally does not affect the highlight and shadow areas.

highlight level set to 200
shadow level set to 50

...with midtone(gamma) set to 2

...with midtone(gamma) set to 0.5

Practical Tips:

expanding the image - Probably one of the most useful ways to use the adjust levels command. If you notice the histogram is compressed, you can manually drag the shadow and highlight sliders. This expands the image data and usually results in a more detailed, bright image. Note: in most cases, you will find yourself dragging the highlight bar to the left, and only slightly tweaking the midtone and shadow levels. Why? because more often than not, the image is underexposed, not overexposed.

auto-adjust levels - not as fun or powerful as doing it yourself, but there is an auto-adjust levels command.