In this tutorial we’re going to take a quick tour of an undocumented feature — a hidden gem of sorts — in Photoshop’s Levels and Curves. I’ll be using Levels but it’s the same in curves too.
A little introduction
Here I am in Photoshop. I’ve got an image from Adobe Stock (more of Adobe Stock another time, but for now, take a look, your catalogue of images could be making you money.)
This image is great but it like to give it a different look. To get started, I’m going to open Levels by going to the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Levels from the menu on the black and white circle icon.
What I might do here is choose the Red Channel from the drop down menu then use click the middle slider and move it a tiny bit to the left to warm the image up a little.
Now, it could be that I get an image like this, with a color cast and want to correct the image. Historically, the Auto in any Photoshop or Lightroom product was floored. This changed a couple of updates ago, so I’ll give it a go and click the Auto button in Levels.
The undocumented feature you’re here for
This time, before I click the Auto button, I’ll press and hold the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key. This time I’m presented with a dialog box.
By default its settings are for Contrast and Brightness, and most of the time that’s what you’ll want. But not this time.
Clicking on the radio button Find Dark & Light Colors has no direct result, but it does make the the Target Colors and Clipping changeable. I’ll let you explore the options this opens up, but for this, I’ll click the Shadows swatch and then from the color picker choose a lighter grey. This gives an easy, editable, washed out effect.
Going back to the theme of warming this image up, I could choose a dark orange here, then a very light orange for the highlights. You can get quite creative here, should you wish.
My favorite is Enhance Per Channel. This works really well and I like to make this my default. It’s subtle and you may not be able to see the difference here, but flick between the two on your image and you’ll definitely see it.
So there we are — short and sweet this time — but I encourage you to have a play. Remember I’m always open to comments, questions and feedback.