Photography Tutorial: Editing part 1 – Level Adjustment

Laurie (aka Lor in the forums) here today, bringing you the first in a series of editing tutorials that you can do for a professional look to your photos. After years of snapping photos and learning, I have come to point where I can call myself a photographer. Looking back and thinking about what was most helpful in perfecting a photo, I think of the three edits I make to every photo. Yep! Every photo I process.

You may think that your image looks amazing already, which it probably does, but wait until you see the results of these three easy edits I will be describing, one each month. Be sure and come back for the next two.

I am using Photoshop Elements 12 and I am describing the custom levels editing. There are multiple ways to edit the levels in the various programs.


Here is an Autumn photo of my favorite subjects to capture, my beautiful daughter. It looks lovely just as it is, but let’s adjust the levels. Levels mainly represent the adjustment of the level of light and dark areas of your image.

At the top toolbar in Photoshop Elements go to “Enhance”, “Adjust Lighting”, and then “Levels” as seen in the image below.

Photo 1
A graph will then appear as seen in the image below. There are little arrows directly below the graph. The black arrow on the left represents shadows, the gray arrow represents midtones and the white arrows represents highlights in the photograph. A good rule of thumb is to bring the black and white arrows towards the middle so that they are just below the edge of the mountain nearest to them. The gray arrow can then be adjusted to fine tone your image.

photo 2
I typically bring the black arrow all the way to the edge of the mountain. The white arrow I typically bring just inside the mountain a bit, simply, because I like the light bumped up a bit. Just play with those arrows and see what it does to your image and it won’t take you long to settle on you preference. And then hit “OK”. Whala! And you’re done editing the levels of your image.

And here is a before and after, to show the results.

Come back next month and we will discuss “Noise Reduction.”
Tah! Tah! Til’ then. 🙂


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