Contrast Part 7: Levels & Curves – All about LEVELS

A previous post provided an overview of the Levels & Curves tool, one that you should be proficient with if your goal is an exceptional image. The tool’s name has two parts – because it provides two functions. Today we’ll look at LEVELS.

Part 7 of a series

“All About Image Contrast for Photographers”

TODAY WE’LL TAKE THE 1ST STEP TOWARD L&C BASICS

Part 6 illustrated what the L&C display tells us

Today’s post will examine

The Levels portion of Levels & Curves

The Curves portion will be in a future post

D300_130701_164218__DSC7206 lr5acr l&c feature 1

Levels Adjusted

Capture > RAW Conversion > Adjust Tones with Levels

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The What – The Levels Components of  Levels & Curves

One of the most fundamental and useful tools

For adjusting image tonal (brightness) values

Available in any image editing software that’s worth using


The Why – Most images benefit from tonal adjustments

As they come from the camera, the are often flat (lack contrast)


The How – We’ll look at Levels, a part of Levels & Curves

Levels adjustments are made using 3 sliders shown in Fig. 1

1. Slide the black point slider to the right to darken

Any pixel with tonal value darker than the slider’s position

Is rendered black

2. Slide the white point slider to the left to lighten

Any pixel with tonal value lighter than the slider’s position

Is rendered white

3. Sliding the mid-tone slider to the right darkens

To the left lightens

The three sliders can be used alone or in any combination

Click to enlarge; L&C is at upper right

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Fig. 1

The following 51-sec. video shows these sliders in action –


There’s a lot more to show about using Levels

Application to the entire image, vs.

Application specifically to individual color channels, vs.

Application to Luminosity without affecting color, vs.

Selective application (say, everything except the daisy’s center)

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All of these and more in upcoming posts


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