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Photoshop Pro: Use Shadow/Highlight Feature

Every picture contains Shadows (darker parts of a picture), Midtones (middle ranged tones), and Highlights (brighter areas of a picture). This function is designed to enable a quick yet convenient way of controlling dark and bright areas of a picture in a detailed manner.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight. To view full range of settings, click on Show More Options check box.


Original Image – Image ID: 188951 © Photos. Com

We will adjust the ‘shadow’ properties of this image, using the following settings: Amount: 40%; Tonal width: 20% ; Radius: 350px


More details were revealed to the darker parts of the image, as it seems brighter now. Using tonal width and radius, we are able to make adjustments in a controlled manner. Highlight Amount: Add an amount of darkness to affected bright areas (bringing back the details). Tonal width: Sets how much of the brightness range should be affected. Radius: Determines how the changes are blended into the image.


Original Image – Image ID: 305034 © Gina Smith

We will adjust the ‘highlight’ properties of this image, using the following settings: Amount: 60%; Tonal width: 40% ; Radius: 50px Result:

Texture on the curtain are revealed or darkened.

Further understanding of Tonal width property: Tonal width: Sets how much of the darkness range should be affected. Low settings will result in changes taking place only in the darkest of places, whereas higher settings will allow adjustments to affect the brighter areas of the image.

*For the purpose of this topic, I’ve got the settings on an extreme so that changes is more evident.

Only dark areas of the picture were revealed (areas where the arrows are pointing) when 100% Amount is entered with Tonal width of 0%. Compared to the original image, the circled area of Picture 1 does not have any changes as it is originally a brighter area in the image. On the other hand, brightness crept into the circled area (of Picture 2) when Tonal width is added. More areas were affected when the Tonal width slider was dragged to the right.

Above example was based on Shadow settings. Tonal width of Highlight work in a similar way in that it sets how much of brightness range should be affected.

Further understanding of Radius property: Radius: Determines how the changes are blended into the image. Dragging slider towards the left would lessen the blending, producing a more pronounced difference between changes made and original image. Whilst dragging it to the right will blend the changes (Amount & Tonal width) into the surrounding.

*For the purpose of this topic, I’ve got the settings on an extreme so that changes is more evident.

Imagine the white circle is a highlight in an Image. We are going to reduce the highlight a bit. Image 2 has a darkened ring within, as a result of adding Amount and Tonal Width. When added a Radius of 500px, the changes isn’t that obvious anymore as it increases the range of pixels to blend in with its surrounding.

Adjustment Is a set of properties which consist of Color Correction, Midtone Contrast, and Black/White Clip settings.

Color correction simply controls the saturation on areas that are affected by the settings done above. Sometimes, brightening the shadows and darkening the highlights may bring out undesired/exaggerated colors that was lurking in those areas.

Midtone Contrast as its name suggest controls the contrast of midtones in the image. This step is necessary to fine tune the image, ensuring a balanced contrast throughout is achieved.

I will attempt to change the overall look and feel of the picture below.

Original Image – Image ID: 360577 © Elena Elisseeva

Settings used were: Shadow : Amount 50% ; Tonal width 50% ; Radius: 30px Highlight: Amount 50% ; Tonal width 50% ; Radius: 30px Color contrast: 10; Mid tone contrast: 20

Results as below:

Black/White Clip Adjusting shadows and highlights might cause a picture to lose its flair. Bright reflection might turn dark and dull, and dark shadows can become slightly lightened (not solid black).

Examine these images:

As we add the white clip percentage, it will cause Photoshop to force pure white into a small range of the brightest shades in the image. It forces the brightest areas of your image to white, making sure they wont be darkened when you move the highlight settings. Black clip works on a similar way, that it forces solid black back to the darkest areas of effect.

In a nutshell, this method is useful in bringing out details in dark areas, useful in bringing back details to overexposed areas and proves to be a simpler alternative to using Curves in controlling contrasts.

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