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Side-By-Side Comparison - Levels for Photoshop Magic in Your Photos

In two previous posts, a series of side-by-side images included a photo of Bruce Metcalf's necklace.

Did you notice the difference in the model's skin color?

Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.
Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

The original (left) photo had a kind of dull cast to the photo giving the skin a greenish cast. I adjusted the photo using LEVELS in PhotoShop making the model's skin tone and necklace a speck more radiant. LEVELS for Photoshop "magic" can really make a noticeable improvement.  Levels are a way in Photoshop (and other photo editing software) to improve the brightness in photography.  A 30-second  "fix" with Levels improves the images significantly.

Here is my simple Photoshop Tutorial for using Levels (in an older version of Photoshop:) 

Open PhotoShop
(find your image)
    OPEN your image: Levelsstep1





LevelsADJUSTMENTClick IMAGE in the top menu bar. Look at the drop-down menu.

CLICK: Adjustments 
in the drop-down menu.

LEVELSbruce metcalfAnother drop-down menu.

Click: Levels

You will see a graph with black fill.

There should be a little white trianglular slider on the right side of the graph. A larger image below with a red square highlights the area that I am talking about.

LEVELSbruce metcalfred

Levelsbrucemetcalfimage On Bruce Metcalf's original photo the graph has an empty space on the right (i.e. the black fill in the graph does not extend all the way to the right edge). Do you see how the black fill on the right and the little white triangular slider on the right edge don't line up?


GRAB that little white triangular slider with your mouse. Move it to the left so the triangular slider lines up with the right edge of the black fill.

The red square highlights the white triangular slider. 
NOTICE how the photo lightens up.

There you go. Levels magic!!!!!!!

TRY IT YOURSELF. I have an older version of PhotoShop. Your version may be slightly different. Experiment. Learn to use Levels for PhotoShop magic!

LEVELSmovedWORD OF CAUTION: Just as every photo looks different, every photo will have a different graph in Levels.

If you look at Levels for a photo, and the black triangular slider on the left, and the white triangular slider on the right are lined up with the beginning and end of the graphic black fill,  DON'T MOVE THE TRIANGLES.

If the little triangular sliders move INTO the graphic black fill area (moving past the edge) you will lose information. This is why book publishers do not want you to adjust levels for print images. Book and magazine publishers don't want amateur PhotoShop skills ruining the photo.

If you have an image that looks a little dreary or dark, open Levels and look at the image.

BruceMetcalfnecklace BruceMetcalfnecklace.fulllighter
Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels

What do you think?

BruceMetcalfnecklace BruceMetcalfnecklaceonly
Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels &
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.

Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

Thank you to Bruce Metcalf for allowing ASK Harriete to experiment with his images and use them as an example for the last two weeks of posts.

If you missed the posts about the images they were titled: 

Side-By-Side Comparison - Do You Want to See the Whites of Their Eyes When Photographing the Model?   and

Side-By-Side Comparison - The Whites of The Model's Eyes? Issues and Answers


P.S. I kept my tutorial super simple...but there are many tutorials available online.

This post was updated on February 5 , 2022, to provide current links.