BVI’s Photoshop Tool of the Day: Shadows and Highlights Adjustment

In today’s blog post we will be exploring the usefulness of the shadows and highlights adjustment. This is a very useful tool for images where some information is lost to shadows and bright spots. This tool can be accessed by going to Image>Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights, as seen in the screenshot below.

A menu will pop up showing the controls of the filter. You’ll want to click the Show More Options box to get full use of this tool.

The filter is controlled by three sliders; Amount, Tone, Radius. One set of sliders for shadows and a second set of three sliders below that for highlights.

Amount

The amount sliders increases the amount of brightness added to the shadows

Or, in the case of highlights, the amount slider increases the amount of brightness removed from the highlights

Tone

The second set of sliders, tone, expands the range of shadows or highlights adjusted by the effect. When you bring the tone slider too far to the right it starts brightening too much or darkening too much. You can find the right spot for the marker by finding the place on the slider where it starts to brighten or darken the midtones and then placing the marker just to the left of that point. It is usually necessary to adjust amount and then tone several times in order to get the right effect. Toggling the preview box is very helpful while adjusting the effect. 

The third slider, Radius, is less important. It softens the effect and blends rough edges. For most images you can leave the radius very small in order to keep sharpness in the image.

A before and after comparison is shown below. In the before image the bricks can not be seen in the shadow. By using only the shadow part of the shadows/highlight tool and sliding the amount all the way over to the right the texture of the bricks are now visible in the shadows.

This tool is a quick fix that otherwise would require tedious blending in of other exposures to get detail out of shadows and highlights. I hope you will find this helpful when editing a high contrast photo.