Nearly every digital image needs tonal and colour corrections and it is vital to know, which adjustments to use to get a perfect end result. Nearly all adjustments can be used an adjustment layer, which is the nondestructive way to make your corrections. I highly recommend to start using adjustment layers instead of using the adjustments from the Image menu. Auto corrections are also available in Photoshop, but it is always better to understand how to make changes manually and to be able to use the exact values that you like.

Parts of this series:
1. Digital Image Theory
2. Working with Bridge
3. User Interface
4. Making Selections
5. Tonal and Colour Adjustments
6. Working with Layers
7. Retouching Images


Possibly the most versatile adjustment tool in Photoshop is Curves. You can change the brightness of your image if you are using the Curves in RGB mode. You can selectively adjust the brightness of shadows, midtones and highlights. You can even reset the black and white points (the same thing you can do with Levels).

You can precisely color correct and image if you go into channels mode with Curves. Mostly you will need to decrease the blue and increase red with outdoor phtographs and do the opposite with indoor photographs.

You can also increase the contrast of your image if you make an S curve by darkening the shadows and increasing the brightness of the highlights.

You can use the eyedropper tool in the Curves dialog box to automatically correct the colors of the image. The best is to use colour swatches when you take the photos to ensure the best correction.

Shadows and Highlights

With the Shadows/Highlights adjustment you can selectively make changes to the shadow and the highlight areas of your image. Mostly we need to brighten the shadows without increasing the brightness of the highlights and vice versa, darkening the highlights without affecting the shadows.

This adjustment reveals most hidden details in an image but at the same time reduces the contrast. The other disadvantage of Shadows/Highlights is that you can only use it nondestructively with Smart objects (there is no adjustment layer version).

Try not to use more than 50% for the main values if you want to maintain realistic colours and tonal values.

Hue-Saturation, Vibrance and B&W

With these adjusment layers you can change the colours of your image.

Hue-Saturation is the most versatile one, which can modify the hue, the saturation and the brightness of the image. You can even use Colorize option if you want to make a monochrome effect like Sepia.

Vibrance is the best way to increase the intensity of colours without posterizing (making colour noise) the image.

Black and White adjustment layer turns the layers below it into grayscale and you can fine-tune the brightness of the original colours.

To be continued soon…

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About the author 

Martin Perhiniak

Martin Perhiniak is a Certified Adobe Design Master and Instructor. He was voted to be one of the top 10 Adobe instructors in the world by student feedback in 2015. In his online courses besides the technical knowledge you need, Martin will also teach you a lot about design principles, compositional techniques and plenty of best practices that he picked up and developed while working as a designer and retoucher on projects such as Pixar’s Cars and Toy Story, BBC’s Dr Who or Mattel’s Team Hot Wheels. He feels it his mission to share his insights of the design industry and its latest trends with beginners and creative professionals around the World.

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