Using Levels in Photoshop

Levels is a tool used to adjust brightness, contrast, and tonal values of a photo.  Levels uses a image histogram to adjust the values of these qualities by shifting the range of complete black, complete white, and midtones on the graph.  An understanding of the use of levels will help you to better represent tones in your final image.

 

Step 1: Opening levels

 

We will begin by opening the levels window, which is located on the side panel under adjustments.  Upon clicking the levels window will open to the side as shown.

Image

 

All pictures will have different histogram values but the black, white, and midpoint will already be set to a standard. 

 Step 2: Adjusting Black and White Levels

 

When adjusting the black and white values of an image, it is important to check if your photo should have completely black or white regions.  If so the image’s histogram should express this.  Most images look best when the full range of dark to light is extended to the size of the histogram.  Images that don’t cover the entire range often look washed out and lacking tone.  As seen in my photo the black end is extended further than the histogram represents so I will pull this range in.

Before:

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After:

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The result shows the new emphasize of the darker tones in the image.  As this step brought out some of the darker tones, the same can be done to bring out highlights of the photo.  I will squeeze the white level inward to bring out these lighter tones.

After:

Image

By using levels I eliminated the washed out look of the original photo and accentuated the darker and lighter tones.

Step 3: Adjusting the Midpoint

 

The midpoint slider’s main use is to brighten or darken the midtones within an image.  Moving the midpoint to the left will stretch the histogram to the right and squeeze the histogram to the left of the point thus brightening the midpoint tones and vice versa if the midpoint is moved to the right.  The darker midpoints in the shadow and door in my photo are slightly over powering so I will move the midpoint to the left to brighten these regions.

 After:

Image

 

Finally, we are left with a photo with fuller tones simply using the levels tool. 

*This photo may not have been the best to show the changes on*

 Before/After:

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