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Adobe Photoshop CC - Advanced Training

Advanced color & tone correction using Levels in Photoshop

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hi there, in this video we are going to look at Advanced Levels. We're going to set white balances, we're going to adjust channels separately. We're going to look at cool little options that show us things like clipping, to make sure we don't destroy the image. We'll look at a couple of options, let's jump in there now. Before, after, let's get Level Advanced. 

In your '04 Fixing Images', open up 'Levels 1' and 'Levels 2' Thanks to the photographers Jeff Finley and Jacalyn Beales. I mentioned this in the first video, but anything from Unsplash, I've added the actual photographer's name, because they've donated these images free to the world. You can use them commercially too. So just go to and check out these photographers. So let's look at kind of Advanced Levels. 

In the Essentials course we covered the basics, let's go in a bit deeper now. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to go to 'Adjustments', and I'm going to click on 'Levels' to make sure it's an Adjustment Layer. One of the cool features in Photoshop is just clicking the Auto button, kicking back and saying, Photoshop, do your magic. And it's done pretty good. I'm going to turn the Eyeball 'on' and 'off'. It's pretty nice, but what you probably didn't know - I'm going to undo - you can hold down the 'Alt' key on a PC, or the 'Option' key on a Mac and click on 'Auto'. It just gives you like-- that's the default when you click on Auto, but these other autos, cool, huh? You can just work your way through and say, is this the auto that I want? Think of them-- don't worry too much about the names. Think Automatic option 1, 2, and 3, and see which one works for you. If you find after a while, you're like, I always prefer this one instead of this one, you can set it as the default for that auto. 

Let's say we don't like any of the auto ones, let's click 'Cancel'. One of the nice things you can do is, this photograph here, instantly, when I saw it I was like, this is going to be easy with this tool here. The White Balance Tool. What you can do is you can tell Photoshop that, I know - click on this - I know that that is pure white, probably. It's probably just white card printed off. So if I click on it, it kind of makes adjustments as that being pure white. So kind of adjusts per channel, rather than just kind of sliding these kind of three little adjustments. It actually goes in every channel, and makes an adjustment because it knows what the white is, and tries to counter balance that kind of-- we have a kind of a blue hue to it, which is not wrong, it's just what this image was kind of shot at. It's got that kind of Instagram greeny, moody feel. And that's why photographers will use something like this. 

I've just gone to Amazon, and if you put in Grey cards or white balance cards, you end up with these things. So what they'll do is they'll set them up in a photograph. So we'll set them up next to the subject. So instead of doing in Photoshop later on, with these white, gray, and black settings, you can tell Photoshop what's black, what's gray, what's white. You can do it in your camera before you actually take the photograph. You can set the white balance, 18% gray card, and the black, perfectly if you're doing product shots, and you have to-- you might as well spend the time there with your camera. Getting everything set perfect rather than having to fix it all up here in Photoshop later. 

So we're happy with that. Let's go to 'Levels 2'. Let's look at a couple of other advanced features. So under 'Adjustments', let's go to 'Levels', and what we want to do is, let's say we just want to tidy this up this way. That's generally what you do with levels, right? Bring in these two houses either side before they're kind of like halfway up the hill. Either side, and then use this gray slider in the middle here to decide which way it needs to go. Whether it needs to be lightened up in the mid tones, or darkened down. What's really cool is, if you're dragging these guys, after a while, starts kind of going-- there's kind of full black. And you start losing details, but that happens quite early on. But it's hard to know, like when does it start happening properly. 

If you hold down the 'Alt' key on a PC or the 'Option' key on a Mac while you drag it, can you see, get this kind of weird color that appears. And that's just showing you, like over here, pretty much nothing's getting clipped. And when it gets closer into this hill, it's a little hard to do. I'm pointing out with my nose, can you see the tree down here? It's really dark in here, so as we make things darker, you can see it's starting to kind of just, that's all becoming one color. So just making you aware of what's happening. You might still have to go for it. Same with the whites, click, hold, and drag. It's just the opposite, they've inverted the colors to show you what's going to start blending, as far as whites go, and it's all this kind of white clouds behind here. 

You can still go ahead and do it, it's not wrong. It's just showing you that there's going to be loss of detail in here. And because it's the back of the clouds, I'm okay with it. I've been making sure, like the eyes and stuff weren't getting clipped by dragging these in. Now this trick here works on-- it's not going to work for the gray one because it's not shuffling between these two, it's kind of clipped the ends but this is just shuffling in between them. You'll find there's actually a lot of settings that will allow you to do that in your Adjustments Panel. If you start dragging a lot of these different options, like curves and exposure, if you hold down the 'Alt' key, or the 'Option' key on a Mac, and while you're dragging, it will give you, like a little visual preview of what you might be destroying potentially. 

Now I'm going to reset it to its defaults to get back to the beginning. And I want to show you another little trick. So we're dealing with RGB channels. RGB, you probably know is Red, Green, and Blue, that make up this image. Instead of dealing with all of them in one go, you can actually look at the different channels separately, and adjust them separately, and it gives you a lot more fine tuning. Especially when they're color cast. You'll find you can fix up the color cast in levels. You don't have to jump out to say, color balance as the adjustment. So what I mean is, let's start with red, and just do the same half way up here, or just up the beginning of the hill here. I'm going to do the same for green. You can use your shortcuts. Hold down the 'Alt' key on a PC, and tap '3', '4', '5'. You can see, it toggles there between red, green, and blue. On a Mac it is 'Option 3', '4', '5'. 

So I'm going to do the same here, bring these guys in. You can see it started to get to a more natural color. There's some mid tones that I want to adjust. I find it really hard to adjust the mid tones using these separate things, I prefer to go to RGB and do all of them in one big go. So that's some more advanced Photoshop stuff. Auto, if you hold down the 'Alt' or 'Option' key and click on 'Auto', you get some extra adjustments. You might be able to set the white balance here for the cloud. You could click on this white one and click on the clouds. I find it never gives me an exact result. Using nature as your kind of backdrop, but there's something kind of artificial, like white paper, it's pretty good. 

Also remember, holding down 'Option' key on a Mac or 'Alt' key on a PC, you can kind of check to see if you're clipping anything. And don't be afraid to jump in and fix the red, green, and blue channels separately. That's going to be it. We're all ignoring the strange shaped mountains. I didn't notice them until half way through this video. I've stayed growing up about it, but I feel like it needs to be acknowledged, before we move on to the next video. Grow up, Dan. Next video.