Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions, Pt. 1 | 4 | WebReference

Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions, Pt. 1 | 4

Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions

Auto Levels

Sometimes, regardless of how much you increase the strength, Smart Fix doesn't do the job. Look at Figure 2.5. I tried using Smart Fix, but it was way off. Instead I'll try another method, Auto Levels.

Figure 2.5: Smart Fix didn't work on this image.

Auto Levels finds the darkest and lightest pixels of an image and then remaps the intermediate pixels proportionately. Color casts may be removed or introduced because Auto Levels adjusts the red, green, and blue channels individually.

In Standard Edit, you apply Auto Levels via the menu bar (Enhance > Auto Levels) or via the keyboard (Shift+Ctrl+L / Shift+ +L). In Quick Fix, in the Lighting group in the Control Center, click Auto next to Levels.

That's what I did to the shot, and you can see in Figure 2.6 that it worked. Figure 2.7 shows the image's histogram before and after Auto Levels. Notice that the fixed shot has a much better distribution of tonal values.

Figure 2.6: After Auto Levels.

Figure 2.7: The image's histogram before Auto Levels ( left): a narrow distribution of tonal values. After Auto Levels (right): a wider distribution of tonal values.

Auto Contrast, by the way—found just under Auto Levels in the Enhance menu and in Quick Fix under Lighting—isn't nearly as useful for color images. It adjusts the overall contrast and mixture of colors but it does not adjust each color channel (red, green, and blue) individually. I rarely use Auto Contrast, and when I do it's mostly for grayscale images.

The Lighten Shadows, Darken Highlights, and Midtone Contrast commands found in the Quick Fix Control Center are basically the same commands you get when you choose Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights from the main menu bar. These controls are very useful when you want to correct images with a strong backlight and a dark foreground, or vice versa. I'll use these commands later, in Chapters 3, 4, and 7 (When you adjust the Lighten Shadows, Darken Highlights, and Midtone Contrast sliders, Commit and Cancel icons appear next the word Lighting. Select Commit when you are satisfied with the image. Select Cancel if you are not. Until you select either the Commit or Cancel icon, the Reset button located above the After version of your image is dimmed and inoperable).

More Control: Levels

The Auto Levels command also doesn't always work satisfactorily. The bag in Figure 2.8, shot with a digital camera for a commercial website, lacks color intensity and contrast. But applying Auto Levels makes it look worse. At times like this, I turn to the Levels controls found in the menu bar under Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels. (You also have access to Levels from Quick Fix). The truth is, I probably use Levels more than any other single Photoshop Elements control. It enables me to manually adjust the intensity of my shadow, midtone, or highlight areas. Not only does it give me sophisticated control over the look of my digital images, it is intuitive and relatively easy to use.

Figure 2.8: The original image (left) lacks color intensity and contrast. Auto Levels didn't help (right).

Figure 2.9: Levels graphically show the distribution of tonal values and provide a means to individually adjust shadows, midtones, or highlights.

Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: November 30, 2004