You can learn a lot from experimenting with manual adjustments and individual filters in a program like Color Efex Pro, but you can learn even more by dismantling a preset to see how its individual parts work together.
Levels adjustments are one of the most basic yet most important things you can do when enhancing photos. The levels tool will usually display a histogram which shows you whether the tones in your image cover the full range from solid black, on the left of the scale, to solid white on the right.
If they don't, you can then move black point and white point sliders to line up with where the histogram does actually start and end to maximise the tonal range of your picture.
It's a quick and simply way to maximise contrast and tonal without clipping (cutting off) any details in the extreme shadows and highlights. You don't have to do it with every single image – some look best with low contrast – but it's one of the handful of core adjustments you'll find yourself doing again and again.
Histograms aren’t sacred: shadows and highlights CAN be clipped
Histograms just show you what’s happening in your images, they’re not there to tell you what to do. But there’s an old adage from the days of film photography that you should still be able to see some detail in the darkest and brightest parts of your pictures, and that’s carried through into digital photography. […]
Levels vs curves vs luma curves: ways to adjust contrast in photos
Levels and curves can both be used to adjust the contrast in photos, but how are they different, which should you use and is one better than the other?
Restore faded art using levels and curves
With careful use of levels and curves adjustments you can rescue even the faintest and most faded artworks and restore both saturation and contrast. Levels and curves are two of the most basic adjustment tools in any image-editing program, but there’s often confusion about which to use and when, and it often appears as if […]
Mastering Elements Levels adjustments
Levels are one of the most basic image adjustments in any image-editor. They’re your first chance to act on the information you get from the image histogram and use adjustments to maximise the tonal range of your picture. In fact, although the Levels dialog may not offer the advanced image control of curves or other […]
Adding localised levels and curves adjustments in Color Efex Pro 4
DxO Color Efex Pro 4 isn’t just a collection of special effects. It also has a number of powerful image-editing tools hidden amongst them, and one of these is the Levels & Curves tool. You can use this to make adjustments to your images in the same way you would in Photoshop, Elements and other […]
How to preview and control histogram clipping in Lightroom
There’s this idea in digital photography that your histogram must never be clipped, and that it should always fit – just – within the maximum width of the scale. And sometimes we work so hard to recover shadow and highlight detail to prevent clipping, that we end up with an image that has lost its […]