Photography 101 – Levels

on Jun 6, 2007 in Photography 101 | 13 comments

I’m taking a little break from my ‘Learn Dreamweaver in Just 72 Hours’ course to share some fun camera stuff I learned this weekend. My outside photo shoot ended in disaster. Lots of things wrong with the approach. I’ll mention the biggies:

  • Waiting for ‘just the right lighting’ is extremely difficult for a controlled photo. Even though I was outside late in the day there were all types of little shadow surprises lurking when I looked at the images on my computer.
  • It was a lot of work to setup a shoot outside. Just physically hauling out everything that needed to be there and then trying to tweak things a little here and a little there was very time consuming. After that it all had to be brought back inside. After discovering my problems I had no desire to do it all again the next day.
  • Bugs and wind and those big fat robins flying overhead.

I decided to take the effort inside where I could leave the whole thing setup for several days as I proofed and re-shot until I was happy with the composition.

On to Photoshop and a valuable technique I learned this weekend.

I often peruse the ‘new’ books shelf at the library and pick up titles that spark my interest. Right there on the shelf last Thursday was Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography 2.0 . Angels do exist! This book had several nuggets that clarified my understanding of image post-processing.

Let’s start with the most simple yet most dramatic edit I discovered for my JPEG images. Levels.

Try this:

Open your image in Photoshop. Select: Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Levels. Here’s a screen shot:

The shadows are pretty good, the left hand black pointer is sitting very close to the mountain. The highlights are hurting, the right hand pointer is sitting very far from the mountain. Bring both of those pointers so they’re just inside the edges of the mountain:

Much better. Rick says the gray arrow in the center is virtually useless. I’ll leave it at that.

This is a quick way to add some shine to your photos. I have the full version of Photoshop but Rick’s book uses Elements. This feature is common to both products.

Here’s the before photo:

And the after:

Tomorrow’s lesson: RAW.