Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How To Adjust Exposure In A Snap

Levels Adjustments Made Easy

Utilizing Photoshop's Levels adjustments is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to adjust the exposure of your photographs. For some, the levels dialogue box can seem overwhelming, so in this tutorial I'll show you how simple it actually is and I'll show you how I use this very powerful tool.

As you can see in the example above, using this tool can greatly improve your food photographs by making them brighter and full of life and color. Give it a shot!

Levels adjustment for exposure in second part of post...

Add Levels Adjustment Layer

Open your image and add a Levels Adjustment Layer. On the bottom of the layer palette you will find an icon that is a circle with half white and half black. That is your adjustment layer icon. Click that and a menu will come up. Choose Levels.

Understanding The Histogram

A dialogue box will open up showing your Histogram. A Histogram is a visual representation of the amount of light, middle, and dark pixels in your photograph. The histogram is shaped like a mountain, the peak representing the most pixels and the slopes or flat areas representing less pixels.

On the bottom of the histogram you will find three triangles. The left triangle is black and controls the shadows or dark pixels, the middle triangle is gray and represents the middle values and pixels, and the right triangle is white and controls the highlights and light pixels.

As you can see in the example above, the mountain peaks in the middle and has plenty of height and slopes toward the left, but has almost no peaks or slopes on the right. What this means is that the image has plenty of middle tones and dark pixels, but very few light pixels. Again, the left side of the histogram represents dark tones, the middle represents middle tones, and right represents light tones.

By looking at the histogram I can tell that the photograph needs light tones....it needs to be brightened up. The ideal histogram would have a mountain that has continuous peaks and slopes across the entire plane. Being able to read the histogram is crucial because now I know what type of adjustment to make.

Move Sliders To Make Exposure Adjustments

Now that I've figured out that the image needs to brightened up all I need to do is move the white triangle (on the right) over to the point in the mountain where it begins to slope up.

Moving the white triangle to left will brighten your image.

Be careful not to move it beyond the beginning of the mountain, otherwise you will start to loose information. In the example above I drew red lines to signify the beginning of vertical slopes that I use as guides.

In addition to moving the white triangle, I also move the gray and black triangles. I moved the black triangle to the first vertical slope (again, look at the red lines I've added).

Moving the black triangle to the right will darken the image and moving the gray triangle will darken or lighten the middle pixels. Play around with different levels to see what type of effects you get.

Learning to use the white and black triangles is the simplest way to adjust exposure and it really is a snap!

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  1. Your blog is so helpful! I thought I knew how to use Photoshop, but after reading your tutorials I realize there is so much I don't know. Thanks for the tips - keep it up.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I'm glad the two of you enjoyed the post.

  3. This is a great tip! Thank you so much!

  4. Another useful food photography tip!

  5. I need to start reading this blog! I have so much to learn about food photography. Thanks.

  6. I'm glad you liked the tip! Stay tuned for more photoshop tutorials!

  7. Thanks for this tutorial. I just brightened up sooo many pictures using this technique :)