The Digital Darkroom
Using The Shadow/Highlight Tool; A True "Highlight" Of The New Photoshop CS

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Photos © 2003 Darryl C. Nicholas, All Rights Reserved

Of all the new tools in Photoshop CS, the one that I have heard the least about is the Shadow/Highlight tool. And, yet, for photographers, it is an extremely useful tool. Think of it as an alternate method for the Curves tool, one that often gives people trouble. The Shadow/Highlight tool appears to be much easier to understand and use, while producing a lot (not all) of the same type of results as the Curves tool.

Notice in #1, the picture has been badly underexposed. Poor Huckleberry (my daughter's cat) can hardly be seen. In #2 I have gone to Image to Adjustments to Shadow/Highlight. That will bring up the adjustment window shown in #3. At the top of the window are the controls for adjusting the Shadows; Highlights are adjusted in the middle; and there are other adjustments at the bottom of the window.

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In this case, I have pulled the slider bars to a setting of 70 percent for both the Amount and Tonal Width. The Radius is set at 30 percent. As you start dragging these slider bars, you will see immediate results in the picture as long as Preview is checked. The tool is really very easy to use. Just start dragging the slider bars back and forth until the picture looks good.

Image #4 shows what Huckleberry looks like after the corrections were made. This tool is so easy to use. And, it does a great job. No experience required! Just drag the slider bars back and forth a bit. When things look good, stop!

The Shadow/Highlight tool works equally well with black and white pictures that are badly faded. With a faded picture you will use the Highlight portion of the tool to do most of the work.

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Image #5 shows a badly faded picture. I don't know if it was originally sepia toned or if it just turned brown with age. In either event, the picture is in pretty poor condition. The first thing that I did was to convert the picture to a true Grayscale image. See #6. The brown tones in the original were produced by years of fading, resulting in uneven, or non-uniform brown tones. These uneven levels of the color "brown" would be unevenly restored if I tried using the Shadow/Highlight tool on it. I can always return the image to a "sepia"-toned picture later if that is what I want by using the Hue/Saturation tool.

Next, as with the picture of Huckleberry earlier, go to Image to Adjustments to Shadow/Highlight (see #2). In the adjustment window (#7) I have set the Shadows slider bars to 55 percent, which is a sort of nominal setting. The real corrections are performed with the Highlights slider bars. Notice that I have set them to 51 and 30 percent with the Radius set to 150 percent. It was also necessary to tweak the Brightness and Midtone Contrast settings at the bottom of the window. And, just look at the great results in #8. By easily dragging a few slider bars back and forth you can quickly produce a full tonal scale black and white picture out of that old, faded original.

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Of course, there are lots of scratches and dirt in the upper right-hand area of the picture that still need to be cleaned up using regular restoration techniques. But, the Shadow/Highlight tool has done excellent work with the overall image. And, it took only seconds!

For more information on digital imaging, you might want to visit my website at: www.colorbat.com.

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