Shadows and Highlights- Another Look

April 18, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Shadows and Highlights - Another Look

It can be difficult at times in camera to get exactly the correct exposure, especially around highly reflective surfaces like pools. The concrete, the water, skin tones, other things in the water can be frustrating and easily confuse the cameras sensor if you have it set on any of the auto modes. Traditional exposure rules such as the sunny16 don't always work out the way you expect. It can be even more complicated as clouds move creating shade and brightly lit scenes within minutes.

There a quite a few methods both in Lightroom and Photoshop for dealing with shadows and highlights, both manual and automated but I would like to offer a quick reminder that 'could' create a easy fix.

In Photoshop, choosing the Image..adjustments... and then shadow/highlights will bring forth this dialog box. I keep the 'Show more options' checked at the bottom of the box.

In the Shadows and Highlights section, you have three main sliders:

  • Amount: Controls how much correction you want to make. Typically you may want to start out at a low value between 30-40% for shadows, and well as a small value for highlights. You can always move to higher values
  • Total Width: Small values restrict changes to the darkest and lightest part of the image. Larger values move into the midtones of an image. The default is 50, but be aware that very large numbers could result in Halos around certain areas of the image.
  • Radius: The question here is what is the main subject in your image. In the images above it is the girl in the float. Moving he radius to number greater than 50 will likely affect the pixels surrounding the main subject and could leave the entire image either too light or too dark. A little experimentation is needed here, but in most cases one will have the best result on the low side of the scale.
  • Adjustments:
    • Brightness- Typically only affects greyscale images, lightening or darkening an image
    • Midtones - Adjusts contrast in the midtones, with larger numbers increasing contrast and darkening the image.
    • Black/White clipping: Adjust contrast by how the shadows are clipped to the extremes of the curve (0 -shadows to highlights - 255). It is usually a good idea here to leave the values relatively low to avoid loss of detail.


The advantage of using this menu choice is that if you shoot in a certain style, it can be a tremendous time saver by saving number as default values.  Simply open the panel and you have a very good start on the image. On the other hand, this is not in the layers panel so one can not simply un-click it if the results are not favorable.  Other choices include levels adjustments and curves, which are found in the layers panel but will likely take quite a bit more tweaking to get what you find as a good end point.

Every image is a little different, so there is not really a one technique fits all, but it is certainly worth giving this feature a try on one one of your next images!


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