How to correct digital photos with shadows and highlights adjustment

As a photographer, you may encounter such a situation. After you shoot a scene, you will find the photo does not come out in the way you want. The subject in the photo is well exposed but the background is washed out or the background is nicely exposed but the subject is overly dark. This is caused by the limited tonal range of the digital camera. Human eyes are able to detect around 10,000 levels of light from total white or black. But the digital camera is only able to record half of it. The scene looks good in your eyes but its full tonal range is beyond the digital camera's ability to capture. This is when shadows and highlights adjustment comes to your aid. It is an effective method to correct the too dark or light areas in the photo. There are plenty of photo editing programs that allow you to adjust the shadows and highlights of the photo. But many of them are difficult to use for photo editing beginners. If you are searching for beginner-friendly photo editors, please continue reading this post. In this post, I will take you through two easy-to-use apps to handle the task.

#1. Photo Effects by Vertexshare

Adjust the shadows and highlights with Photo Effects by Vertexshare

As the title implies, Photo Effects by Vertexshare is a piece of professional photo effects software. Coming with a variety of parameters and decorative objects, it enables you to apply different effects to your photo in an instant.

After you launch the program, you'll be greeted by a sleek and clean window. The window is divided into three panels. A series of predefined effects are located in the left-side panel. Once your photo is loaded into the program, you will see the small preview thumbnails of these predefined effects. The middle panel is the preview area where you can preview the effects applied to the photo. You can zoom and pan the photo, compare the original photo with the changed photo, and discard the changes you make. A vast array of parameters is located in the right-side panel. You can alter the exposure compensation, exposure compression, contrast, lightness, and saturation. Moreover, you can adjust the shadows/highlights, local contrast, tone mapping, and dynamic range. Besides, you are allowed to adjust the photo sharpness and reduce the noise level in the photo. Other parameters you can tweak include white balance, channel mixer, soft light, vignette filter, and vibrance.

One the whole, Photo Effects by Vertexshare is a powerful photo effect app. It offers a number of filters to enhance the photo quality as well as cool visual effects to spice up your photo. The app's UI features a simplistic design that beginners should find to be very accessible. Photo Effects is a great choice for photographers who are looking for a simple way to post-process their photos.

Let's dive into the part of how to adjust the shadows and highlights using Photo Effects.

How to adjust the shadows and highlights of a photo with Photo Effects

Step 1.

  • Drop your photo into the box saying "Drag and Drop Your Photo Here". Or click on "File"->"Add Photo" to add your photo. You can also click on the "Add" button on the top menu bar to add the photo. To remove the imported photo, click on the "Remove" button next to the "Add button".

Step 2.

  • Go to the section "SHADOWS/HIGHLIGHTS" in the right panel. The parameters in this section are highlights, highlights tonal width, shadows, shadows tonal width, and radius. Click on "SHADOWS/HIGHLIGHTS" to activate the function of adjusting these parameters.

Highlights

This parameter is used to fine-tune the brightest parts of your image. Increasing the value will darken the brightest areas of the photo and bring out more details in highlights.

Highlights tonal width

This parameter controls how bright an area must be for it to be considered as a highlight. In other words, it determines the range of tones that should be taken as highlights. Increasing the value will make more tones be affected by the "Highlights" parameter.

Shadows

This parameter is used to fine-tune the darkest parts of your photo. Increasing the value will brighten the darkest areas of the image and bring out more details in shadows.

Shadows tonal width

This parameter controls how dark an area must be for it to be considered as a shadow. In other words, it determines the range of tones that should be taken as shadows. Increasing the value will make more tones be affected by the "Shadows" parameter.

Radius

This parameter controls how the affected areas blend with the unaffected areas. It is used to soften the edges of the affected areas and smoothen the transitions. Increasing the value the transitions look more natural. Decreasing the value will make the edges sharper.

  • Drag the sliders to adjust the parameters to fit your needs. Click on and hold the "View" button to view the differences between the original photo and changed photo. You can also click on the "Compare" button to compare what the photo had looked like before you made changes with what it looks like after you made changes. If you want to readjust the parameters, click on the "Redo" button to discard the adjustments.

The "SHADOWS/HIGHLIGHTS" section of Photo Effects by Vertexshare

Step 3.

  • Press the "Export Photo" button to export the photo to a desired location. Or click on "File"->"Save As" to save the photo into a destination folder.

#2. LunaPic

Adjust the shadows and highlights of a photo with LunaPic

LunaPic is one of my favorite online photo editing apps. It offers a set of impressive features to manipulate your photos. One of them is the shadows/highlights adjustment. It is super easy to use the app to make corrections on the light levels of a photo.

How to adjust the shadows and highlights of a photo with LunaPic

  • Click on "Adjust" on the top menu bar and select "Adjust Light Levels".
  • Click on "Choose file" to upload to your photo.
  • Moving the "Highlights" slider to the left will make the highlights darker and recover more details in highlights. Moving the "Shadows" slider to the left will make the shadows lighter and recover more details in shadows. After you make changes, the preview will be automatically updated.
  • Click on "Apply" to apply the changes to your photo.
  • Go to the bottom of the webpage and click on "Save" to download the processed photo.

Move the "Highlights" slider and "Shadows" slider to the left

Summary

If you find too dark or dull parts in your digital photo, use the two apps above to rescue your poorly lit photo by adjusting the shadows and highlights. If someday you find other great apps to help get the job done, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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