Thursday, November 29, 2007

How To Adjust Your Pictures

In previous articles, we’ve taken up how to take good pictures, and also how to crop and resize them.

Let’s take one last look at graphics issues, then, by talking about how to tweak them. Sometimes you get a picture, and it looks just fine in the framing, or composition, but it’s just a little too dark. Or maybe it’s a little too light. How can you fix it?

Clearly it’d be too much work to reset the item, realign the lights and shoot the picture again. Maybe it’s a picture of some people at an event. You certainly can’t gather them together and have them pose again.

Most graphics editing programs have tools that allow you to adjust the picture. Let’s talk about them. I’m going to show how to do it in, which you can get for free, but other programs function in similar ways.

First, let’s open the program and open up a picture in it. Go to the “File” menu in the upper right-hand corner, and select the “Open” command. Then select the picture you want to adjust in the dialog box that follows. Open that picture.

Before we get into editing the picture for clarity, go ahead and crop and resize it, like we talked about last time.

Now go to the “Adjustments” menu and select “Levels”, and a strange little dialog box will appear over your picture. As you make changes in this box, you’ll see the changes in your picture.

The part of this that we’re going to be the most concerned with is the sliders under the “Output” area. You’ll notice there are three of them (represented by small arrows on either side of the column). You can click on these and slide them around.

At the far right, you can see a button labeled “Auto”. When you click that, it automatically checks your picture and sets it for what the computer thinks is optimal. You’ll probably notice some improvement in the picture. I think, however, that human eyes and a little experimentation can do a lot. Also, there’s a “Reset” button. That’s convenient because if you get lost in your adjustments, you can hit that and be back to the start.

Back to the sliders. The top slider represents the highlights. These are the brightest white spots of your picture. The slider in the middle represents the mid-tones, which are not so bright, but not so dark. Then, the lowest slider represents the darkest blacks.

If you grab the highlight slider and drag it down, it turns those bright whites into duller grays. You’ll notice that it also moves the midtone slider a little bit. The whole picture becomes grayer. If you grab the dark slider and move it up, it lightens the blacks a bit. It also moves the midtone slider some, lightening everything. You’ll notice that when it gets lighter it turns more pale. That’s because the are fewer darks for contrast.

Most of your adjustments will be in the midtones. Grab that slider and move it up a bit. Notice how the darks stay dark, but the overall look of the picture becomes much lighter? You can move it back and forth just to see what it does.

Do the same with the dark and the light sliders as well. Play with the input sliders. Remember that if you get it too jumbled up, you can always reset it.

By playing with these controls, you’ll soon learn how to tweak your pictures to be clear and visible!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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