Practical Photoshop Elements: Correcting Exposure and Contrast

March 30, 2014

Practical Photoshop Elements: Correcting Exposure and Contrast

It's always best to get a photo right when you shoot it so that the image coming out of the camera is a good one with little or no need for post processing.

But realistically speaking, it doesn't always work out that way.

So there are going to be times when you don't get things perfect in the camera. And that includes exposure. Even the most careful photographer will occasionally snap a photo that's off exposure. It happens to all of us. So it's good to know what can be done about this in Photoshop Elements.

Fixing Exposure and Contrast in Photoshop Elements with Quick Edit

Step 1

Begin by opening your image in the Photoshop Elements Editor workspace. Move to the Quick Edit mode by clicking on the Quick tab at the top of the Editor workspace.

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

I have the image that I want to work on opened here. As you can see, my photo is a bit dull looking because it's underexposed and lacks contrast, meaning that there isn't a lot of difference in tonal value between the shadows, mid tones and highlights.

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

I'll use the Levels and Exposure adjustments found in the Adjustments panel along the right side of the workspace to see if I can make this photo look better.

Step 2

We'll start with a Levels adjustment. Click on Levels. This will open a dialog box that contains controls for adjusting the tonal value of the areas of the image that are the brightest (the highlights), the shadowy areas and the midtones.

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

Each tonal area can be adjusted separately by clicking on the appropriate tab in the Levels panel and then using either the preview thumbnails or the slider above the thumbnails to increase or decrease the tonal value. The current tonal value is designated with a white, curved arrow on one of the preview thumbnails.

For my photo, I'm going to start by adjusting the shadows. After clicking on the Shadows tab, I'll click through the preview thumbnails to see what looks good. For my photo, I'll choose the third thumbnail because I like the way it brightens the areas behind my flower and allows more detail to show through.

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

I'll do the same to adjust the midtones and the highlights.

My photo is looking a lot better already:

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

Step 3

It's better, but I think it still needs just a bit of overall brightening. For that, I'll use the Exposure adjustment.

Click on Exposure to open it's dialog box. As with the Levels adjustment, the Exposure adjustment can be made using either preview thumbnails or a slider.

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

After clicking through the preview thumbnails, I decide that I'm not happy with any of them. I only want to add a small amount of brightening to my photo and all of the thumbnails add too much light. So instead, I'll use the slider and tweak it just a bit to add 0.3 stops of light:

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

So that's it! I'm done!

Here's my before and after:

fix exposure and contrast in pse12

fix exposure and contrast in pse12



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