Balancing light ranks among the most essential tools for any photographer. But while a lot of Photoshop users head straight to the Curves adjustment tool for balancing tones in post-production.

When balancing the light levels of an image, two tools come top mind: the Levels and Curves sliders. But if you slide the midpoint of the Levels to the left, the entire image will lighten up, rather than just the shadows. Curves face a similar problem, and they’re more finicky to work with.

highlights shadows adjustment

To achieve the cleanest and easiest results, follow these easy instructions:

  1. Make a duplicate layer.
  2. Head up to Image, scroll down to Adjustments, and choose Shadows/Highlights.
  3. The menu won’t look very large—click “Show more options” to expand it.
  4. Simply opening up this tool will automatically create adjustments, so drag the sliders under “Shadows” (that’s Amount, Tone and Radius) down to zero.
  5. Keep the radius low, but play with the tone and amount until you can see details in the shadows. Don’t bother adjusting the highlights unless you have to—the fewer edits you make, the better.

photoshop tutorial 1

That’s all there is to it. If you find that, while you’re gaining visibility in the newly lit areas, you’re also losing color there, you can raise the color slider at the bottom by a bit, until you see some more hues in the former shadows.

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