The Shadows/Highlights Tool

Photoshop is full of amazing tools for enhancing images. Some are easy to use, some are not quite so. Success in Photoshop comes only when you practice, practice, and practice! The Shadows/Highlights tool in Photoshop is invaluable, but needs a tad more working knowledge of Photoshop. With this tool, we can brighten dark tones and/or darken the light tones. It s a boon for wedding photographers (who often have problems getting details in white), and for landscape photographers, who often land up with blocked up shadows. Open the image that has blocked up shadows and overly bright light tones. Make a duplicate copy of the Background. Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights As soon as the dialog box opens, you ll notice that the shadows  open up  . If the shadows open up as much as you want, all is fine. But in most cases, the effect may be much stronger than expected. If that happens, move the Amount slider (in the Shadows field) to the left till you are okay with the adjustment. It may be necessary to move the Tonal Width to the left too. Play along with these two sliders. It is usually necessary to move the Radius slider to smoothen (feather) the edges. Now move to the Highlights field. The Shadows/Highlights tool consists of 3 fields: Shadows, Highlights, and Adjustments. Remember that this tool can only  open up clogged shadows and can only  tone down bright tones. The Shadows/Highlights ToolAmount slider for the Shadows field: Does what it says-controls the degree to which you want the shadows to open up. Tonal Width slider for the Shadows field: Controls where you want to apply the effect. If you want the darkest of the shadow areas to open up, move this slider towards the left; if you want a wider range of clogged shadows to open up, move the slider to the right. Radius slider for the Shadows field : This sort of smooths out the tonal differences (something like  feathering ) The Highlights field sliders do the same thing, but for the highlights (lighter tones). Since beginners may get a bit confused about the Tonal Width slider for Highlights field, here s the explanation. If you want only the brightest parts of the highlight area to be toned down, move the slider to the left. If you want a wider range (the brightest as well as bit less bright areas), then move the slider to the right. Note: My experience shows that, generally, we need to move the Radius slider for Shadows a bit to the right, and for the Highlights, a bit to the left. Colour Correction and Mid-tone Contrast in the Adjustments field is pretty straightforward. Colours sometimes tend to change with the earlier mentioned edits. I find it is sometimes required to shift the Colour Correction slider a bit to the left. Now for the two extremely important settings: Black Clip and White Clip. What are these and why do we need them? Often, when you open up the shadows and/ or tone down the highlights, black does not look pure black and white does not look pure white (the picture looks muddy). So, take the mouse cursor and place it over the words Black Clip. The cursor will turn into a doubleheaded arrow. Left-click, and holding down the mouse button, drag the cursor to the right. Somewhere in the picture, black will turn pure black. If you reach the other end and still find that black is not pure black, lift the pressure off the mouse button and repeat the procedure till the blacks start clipping (that s why the name Black Clip). Now, holding down the mouse button, move to the left till the clipping goes away. Repeat the exercise for the White Clip. These two settings will put a  zing  into the picture.

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