Adjusting the image for pure black and whites was at the forefront of the work done by Ansel Adams. This adjustment is subjective and cannot always be achieved as in photographs on a grey day or a strong color picture. (See additional notes at the bottom of this post.)
- Select an image and get into the Photo Editor Mode by using the button at the bottom of the Organizer.
- Remember to “Save As” your image with another file name before you get started.
- Quick Edit (tab above the image)/ Select the drop down menu to the right of the icon named Levels. The drop down menu gives you three tabs: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. Click on one of these tabs and use the slider to adjust for the look you want. At the bottom there are also two automated buttons: Auto Levels, Auto Contrast. If you make any adjustments that you don’t like, use the Undo button on the lower left.
- Guided Edit (tab above the image). Under the word Open on the upper left you’ll see the word “View:” to the right is a rectangle with a drop down triangle. Click on this triangle and select any of these choices: After Only, Before Only, Before & After – Horizontal, Before & After – Vertical to view the changes being made to the image. In the panel on the right, select: Levels. A pop up menu wants to make a new layer, click OK. Now the pop up window with the histogram for this image appears. To the right in the panel it tells you to move the sliders to adjust the darks with the dark triangle, lights with the light triangle and brightness with the middle grey slider. Then click the Done button. (Below I explain how to use the keyboard for a more precise adjustment – those instructions can be use in this edit mode as well.)
- Expert Edit (tab above the image) All of the adjustments can be found under the Menu option – Enhance. (Enhance >Adjust Lighting > Levels or Ctrl +L, if you use this often). In PSE 12 it is also located above the layers palette on the right. Click on the icon that is half blue/half white. Select Levels
- A new window appears. This is a histogram, or graph of your picture. If this dialog window is on top of your picture, you can click and drag at the top of it, to move it to the side
- There are three triangles under the graph. On the left, is the dark side of the graph and has a dark triangle. To the far right is the light side of the histogram with a white triangle. In the middle is a grey triangle, representing the mid-range or mid-tones in an image.
- Hold down the Alt key and Click on the black triangle. Once you have correctly held down the Alt key while you click and drag you’ll see the “threshold screen” which is white. This black triangle is a slider that you will slowly move to the right. Stop sliding to the right when you see the black appear. If you have any black or color already instead of all white, then your image probably doesn’t need any adjustments for the blacks.
- Now for the opposite tones. Go to the far right and again use the Alt key and hold it down while you also click to slide the white triangle. The threshold screen this time is black and you are looking for white. Slide to the left just until you see some white appear.
- The triangle in the middle can also be use to adjust tones in the image.
- Click on OK when done. The image now has an adjustment with color and contrast.
Additional note: The pictures that do not have a pure black will show only a color. Do not try to get a black. Just get a strong color. The color shows that the channel is at its maximum. ***We did not change the channel in this activity above, but you could. Open the levels and note that above the histogram is the word channel with a drop down menu. We left it at RGB. Using the drop down menu, you can adjust the different colors separately. You can also use the automated button Auto, if you so choose.**