Sometimes a digital image looks different to the scene that you remember, particularly if there were problems with exposure or white balance. If colors look wrong and tones lack punch, then the Levels command can come to the rescue. Here. we’ll show you how to improve tones in seconds by adding depth, enhancing skies and fixing colors.
As well as making universal adjustments to improve the tonal range, we’II also select the blue sky and use it to alter both the sky and land independently of one another. With a few simple adjustments, you can transform the image and do the scene justice.
Step-by-step Using Levels
Step 1: Improve Tonal Range
Open image, go to the Layers Panel (Window>Layers), click the Create Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom and choose Levels. Hold down Alt and drag the Black Point slider inwards until pixels begin to appear at around 19. Use the same technique to drag the White Point slider to around 227.
Step 2: Correct the Colors
Click the grey point eyedropper next to the histogram, then click over a point in the image that should be a neutral color, such as the rocks. Next, grab the Magic Ward tool, set Tolerance to 20 and check Contiguous. Click the blue sky, then hold down Shift and continue clicking to select the whole sky.
Step 3: Improve the Sky
Go to Select> Refine Edge, then set Radius 1.9, Smooth 2 and Output to: Selection then hit OK. Next, add a second Levels layer. Set Black point 48, Midpoint 0.82 and White Point 189. Click the RGB drop-down menu above the histogram. Select Red and set Midpoint 0.92. Select Blue and set Midpoint 1.15.
Step 4: Tweak The Land
Create a third Levels layer then hold Alt and drag the Layer Mask thumbnail from the layer below onto the new layer. Approve the Replace Mask question. Highlight the new mask thumbnail then press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert it. Click on ‘Levels 3’ layer and set the RGB Midpoint 0.94, Red Midpoint 0.95, Blue Midpoint 0.94.
The easiest way to correct a color cast is to pick the grey point eyedropper (accessible in both the Levels and Curves settings) then click over a tone in the image that should be neutral. Of course, this is only possible if there’s an obvious neutral tone available, such as in a road or a rock. If not, then you may need to click repeatedly over a few areas until you chance upon the right look. Another technique that professionals almost use is to shoot a grey card under the same lighting conditions Once corrected, the same settings can be applied to the main image.