Basic Adjustments – Levels

Basic Adjustments – Levels

When you adjust levels in post-processing, you are adjusting the range of the brightness/ darkness levels in an image. This is determined through a histogram. The histogram displays the distribution of the different light value in an image. For example, a dark image would have a lot of value at the dark end of the spectrum (left hand side of the histogram), a bright image would have a lot of values at the bright end (right hand side).

To start adjusting the levels, open an image in photoshop and go to image – adjust – levels

photoshop Image Adjust Levels

Image => Adjust => Levels

The purpose of adjusting the levels is to have the whites in an image just touching the right hand side and the blacks in an image just touching the left hand side so that the distribution of brightness levels goes right across the range.

The levels histogram has three sliders

The levels histogram has three sliders

The right slider will adjust the bright values, the left slider will adjust the dark values and the middle slider will adjust the contrast.

Adjusted for optimum brightness range

Adjusted for optimum brightness range

For this example, I have put the right slider just at the edge of the brightest values (205), the left slider is at the edge of the darkest values (13) and the middle slider I have kept at 1,00 (middle). This means that the brightness values in my image are spread over the entire brightness/ darkness range.

The result

The left side of the image has no levels adjustment. It is flat and lifeless as the brightness levels are spread too far. The right side of the image has optimum levels adjustment and is much punchier and has better colours. This is because the range of brightness values in the image are tighter.

before and after

Left versus right!!

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There is every type of waterfall here. The strong flutes, the power walls, the delicate, flowing water cascades through green moss.

Shot to nothing

Shot to nothing

One thing I am sure of though is that despite the low visibility, the arctic circle must be in this photograph.

Red Blaze – Night Exposure

Red Blaze – Night Exposure

Although the Northern lights require a long exposure, the object is often to reduce exposure time as much as possible to achieve a usable exposure and with minimal star trails.

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