Photoshop is at its glorious best when used as a pixel-based editor. What do I mean? Well, even though Photoshop can produce and edit vector art, its ultimate purpose and pure strengths lie with editing pixel-based content such as scanned images and photographs from your digital camera.
There are many tools and commands available throughout Photoshop to help you get your images to where you want them, there’s also plenty of techniques out there with a firm objective of making those photographs look better, not forgetting the host of automatic and even automated adjustments Photoshop will attempt with its digital eye. And that digital eye, by the way, it seems more than you’d think – but it’s not perfect. And that’s where you come in.
As the user, and ultimately the controller of photoshop mac or windows, you get to decide how to transform that dull and underexposed photograph into a perfectly exposed, vibrant piece of photographic art you can be proud of. For that very reason, you’re going to need a command that permits you to adjust the brightness and contrast of your images to the degree that you like and in the places that matter. You’re going to need a tool that’s complex and powerful enough to take every pixel inside an image by the scruff of the neck, and turn it upside-down should you hit the button! Well, this powerful yet delicate aid I’m referring to goes by the name of the Levels command.
Over the next 25 videos, we’ll look at how to take the levels command and make it your image-editing buddy, in fact, by the time we’re done we’ll have it sitting up on its hind legs waiting for the next instruction. This series is all about making you a proficient and capable user of the levels command, a user that’s able to take a digital photograph and make it look better using skill, experience, and creativity – the magic ingredients of a successful composition!
Throughout this series I’ve tried to cater to a wide audience, so whilst all of the concepts, language and examples start at the basics, they move through intermediate and into some pretty advanced territory, always building from blocks of information that we’ve already focused on and mastered in order not to leave anyone behind. Some topics aren’t directly related to levels, but knowing what they are and how they function will make you more aware of how they integrate with levels in order to make using levels a more pleasant experience!
As said, we’ll start with the basic, elementary things like the 3 auto functions as well as reading and working from histograms. Once we fully understand how levels work, we’ll dive head-first into its dialogue box by adjusting some simple images both on a composite and channel-by-channel basis. Once we know what we’re doing we’ll look at non-destructive applications of the levels command by using adjustment layers and the 16 bit per channel mode, as well as incorporating some basic masks into the mix. As we build up our knowledge we’ll also build up the complexity of topics, starting with using the eyedroppers to set black, white, and grey points, adjusting skin tones, and reading and working with advanced histogram concepts. We’ll also have time to work in Lab mode to split luminance and color information, as well as completing the journey by answering that age-old question – how do I remove a color cast from my photograph?
Once we’re done you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing everything you need to know to make levels your own personal magic wand. One wave of the mouse and you’ll be fixing images left, right, and center. You’ll also have the benefit of knowing a lot more about how Photoshop works in general, and how it perceives color and luminance information to make the fully-fledged images you see on screen. I’ve also seen to it that all the files I use in this series are available for download here at 3photoshop.com, so follow along to get some hands-on experience or sit back and watch the show -the choice is yours!