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The Big Fixx: digital-camera image probl... > Opening up Shadow Areas (Digital Fil...

Opening up Shadow Areas (Digital Fill Flash)

In Photoshop CS, Adobe introduced a slick new way to open up shadow areas (or pull back highlight areas) called—(aptly enough)—Shadow/Highlight. This new lighting correction command can be as simple as moving a slider or you can tweak each little nuance of your photo’s shadow and highlight areas by revealing its many options. It’s ideal to use in situations where you wish you had used a fill flash (think of it as a highly flexible digital fill flash), and need to bring out detail lost in the shadows, or to reduce your highlights.

Step One.
Open a photo contaning shadow or highlight areas that need adjusting. In this example, the light is coming from the side and slightly behind our subjects, so ideally we’d like to lighten the shadow areas on their faces (in other words, we should have used a fill flash, but hey—that’s why they invented Photoshop, right?).


Step Two.
Go under the Image menu, under Adjustments, and choose Shadow/Highlight (as shown here).

Step Three.
When the Shadow/Highlight dialog appears, by default the shadow areas are lightened by 50% (as shown here). You can increase the amount for additional lightening, or you can decrease the amount if the shadows appear too light. (We’re adjusting shadows in this image, but if you were adjusting highlights instead, you’d increase the Highlights Amount to decrease the highlights in the photo.)

Step Four.
When you click OK, your shadow-lighting correction is applied to your photo (as shown here).

Step Five.
If you want more control than these two sliders offer, click on the Show More Options checkbox at the bottom left-hand corner of the dialog (as shown here). Once you click the check box, you get the “full monty” (as shown in Step Six).

Step Six.
Don’t let all these sliders intimidate you because chances are you’ll be tweaking either the shadows or the highlights—not both—so you can ignore half the sliders altogether. If you’re tweaking shadows, lowering the Tonal Width value lets your correction affect only the darkest shadow areas. Increasing it affects a wider range of shadows. Increase it a bunch, and it starts to affect the midtones as well. It works similarly for the Highlights. The Radius amount determines how many pixels each adjustment affects, so to affect a wider range of pixels, increase the amount. If you increase the shadow detail, the colors may become too saturated. If that’s the case, reduce the Color Correction amount (it’s basically a color saturation slider that only affects the area you’re adjusting). You can also increase or decrease the contrast in the midtones using the Midtone Contrast slider.

Before opening up the shadows.

After opening up the shadows with Shadow/Highlight.

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