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How to Lighten & Darken in Photoshop

You can make most of your lightening and darkening adjustments, even before you learn more complex Photoshop features like curves and levels. Here's how.


  • Step 1: Open the photo Open your photo in Photoshop. Click File, Save As in the top menu bar, and rename the file so that you're working on a copy, instead of the original.
  • Step 2: Open Shadow/Highlight Open the Shadow/Highlight Adjustment by choosing Image, Adjustments, Shadow/Highlight from the top menu bar. Click Show More Options to expand the dialog box, which adds Tonal Width and Radius options to both the Shadows and Highlights sections. Also, it adds a new section called Adjustments, which contains the Color Correction, Midtone Contrast, Black Clip and White Clip options.
  • Step 3: Move the Amount Slide all of the sliders to the left. Move the Amount slider in the Shadows section to about 20 percent. Change how much you'll lighten the shadows by moving the Amount slider in the Shadows section to 20 percent.
  • TIP: Moving the sliders back and forth allows you to gauge your changes.
  • Step 4: Adjust Shadows Tonal Width Adjust the darkest areas by moving the Shadows Tonal Width slider to the right.
  • Step 5: Change the Radius Adjust the area of the photo you'll affect by moving the Radius slider to the right. This helps soften some areas of adjustment, keeping your retouching from being rough and obvious.
  • Step 6: Adjust the Highlights Adjust the three Highlights sliders.
  • Step 7: Fine-tune Make fine-tune color adjustments to the areas you've changed by sliding the Color Correction slider around.
  • TIP: If you find that certain settings work well for most photos, choose Save As Defaults at the bottom of the box.
  • Step 8: Tweak Black and White Clip Increase or decrease the Black and White Clip values. Be careful: It's easy to lose detail in the Shadows or Highlights if you move these values too much.
  • Step 9: Save If you're not happy, close the file and delete it. Reopen the original file, save it under a different name, and start again. If you are satisfied, click OK and save your file.
  • FACT: In 2009, French health officials considered requiring magazines to disclose how much they used Photoshop to retouch the photos they published.

You Will Need

  • Adobe Photoshop

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