Using levels and eyedroppers in Photoshop is a fantastic method to fix dull photos. For photographs that don’t have enough contrast or have a colour tint, this works incredibly nicely. This is valid for film scans, shooting in haze or fog, and it also applies to backlit objects that have contrast softened by lens flare.

fig5-034I took this picture during a trip to the incredible metropolis of Hong Kong. As you can see, the picture has a little bit of a contrast problem and a colour cast.

It only appears slightly unclean, but it’s actually not that horrible (or is it?). The quality of the images will soon be noticeably different.


To avoid the photographs appearing too dark or too bright, some defaults need to be set in the eyedropper tool before any edits are made.

The black and white points will now be set in the levels settings.

Place a levels adjustment layer on top.

Double-click the Set Black Point tool in the Levels dialogue box as shown at left.

will notice a colour selector. As illustrated on the left, change the setting under “B” to 5 to set the black point to 95% black. Select OK.

To set a white point, select the white eyedropper tool. Enter 95 into the “B” setting in the colour picker as indicated. Now, 95% white is the white point. A dialogue box will appear inviting you to choose new defaults. To agree to these changes, click yes.


uncovering shadows. The picture repair can now be completed. The darkest area of the image will be where we place the Set Black Point tool, and the lightest area will be where we place the Set White Point tool. Find the image’s darkest area. The image should turn white as you drag the shadow slider to the right while holding down the Alt (Option on Mac) key. You will start to notice some parts start to show through as you adjust the slider. The Black Point threshold is indicated at left. The darkest portions of the image are those that first begin to show.


shadows are being adjusted.Return the slider to the far left after noting where the dark areas of the image are on the threshold. Select the Set Black Point tool and click on the main picture window’s darkest area, as shown at left. The image will move, and the 95% dark setting we previously chose will now be applied to the area we clicked.


identifying highlights. To expose the image’s whitest point, slide the right slider to the left while holding down the Alt (Option on a Mac) key. As illustrated in the figure, the image will start off dark and the highlights will show through.


modifying the highlights. Select the Levels palette’s Set White Point Eyedropper tool. The image’s lightness will be altered to match if you click on the part of the image that is the whitest, as seen at left.


the Grey point being set. The colour cast will be somewhat lessened and the image’s tonal attributes will seem considerably better. Let’s now completely eliminate the colour cast. From the Levels dialogue box, select the Set Grey Point eyedropper. When we use this tool to click on a picture, it will select the clicked area as the image’s grey point and adjust all of the colours to match. Click on an area of the image, such as the illustration’s tiny tower, that ought to be a neutral grey. The colours will change; if you’re not satisfied, try again by selecting the Set Grey Point tool in various locations around the image.
Click OK to apply the Levels to the image if you are satisfied with the outcome. You’ve finally mastered the proper usage of the Levels tool. Although it may seem like there is a lot to accomplish, with a little practise you can do this adjustment in under a minute. The final rectified image, which is a tremendous improvement over the original, is seen in the illustration below.

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