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ant dragging dead wasp back to nestLevels adjustments

Changing the the black and white points. Sometimes you need a bit more than just moving the midpoint...

Part 4 of Keith Cooper's introduction to some of the basic techniques of image editing.

The techniques

The sample images for these tutorials are available for download as a zipped folder.

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Levels adjustment

Open the image levels.jpg

ant and wasp

Have a look at the Histogram.

The picture is very dark. Try the brightness and contrast adjustments if you like. They just don't change the image in a useful way (they rarely do).

histogram from a very dark image

See how the distribution of light and dark pixels is all crunched up to the left side (dark)

The histogram display shows the distribution of light and dark parts of the image. It can often tell you the kind of adjustments you should try, just from its shape.

Just looking at this histogram would suggest that the picture is too dark with no light areas. We need to 'spread out' the curve so that the image has a good range of tones from light to dark.

Open a new levels adjustment layer (as in the previous Gamma section).

giving the picture a more balanced range of tones

Move the white point slider (right one) to bring most of the image data between the black and white points.

There is still a lot of the image data below the midpoint, so move it too.

You might want to crop the image as well, to emphasise the ant dragging the dead wasp back to its nest.

ant dragging dead wasp back to nest


While the midpoint adjustment is often enough to get a good image, there are times when the picture is too dark or light overall. This is where we move the white or black points. You are effectively expanding the picture information to fill the available range from black to white (for these adjustments we ignore the colour side of things) Note, that we have done this adjustment in a layer, so we can have other layers and even change our mind later in the editing process.

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