Lifting Shadow Detail

The next stage is to check on the shadow detail.  It is a common problem that when images are published, especially when printed, that the shadows start to fill in.  If there is important detail in the shadows, or there are large blocks of heavy shadows, then it does help to lift these areas to show the images off to their best.  That way, when the images are published, the shadows won't clog up so much.

Levels & Curves

Levels & Curves



Quite often the work done in colour correcting will lighten or darken the overall image.  It helps if you can watch out for this as you do the Levels and Curves corrections shown in the previous sections.  If the shadows are not made too heavy as you proceed then it will save you an extra job at the end here, but there are some problems to be aware of.


As an example, the Curves panel (Image > Adjustments > Curves on the menu bar) has been used here to lighten the eyes and face of the ship worker by lifting the middle of the Curve on the combined RGB channel.

NOTE:  The middle slider in the Levels panel (Image > Adjustments > Levels on the menu bar) could also have been used to do this work.


The mid-tones get the greatest benefit here, but the correction does effect the whole image, not just the shadows, with the result that some of the brighter highlights have lost some detail.  So do watch out for the highlights as you do this work.

NOTE:  There are better ways of doing this correction with Curves, but this will be dealt with in an advanced section of the digital imaging training.




If an image has quite bright highlights to start with, then this simple fix in the mid-tones can result in problems.


The same Curves correction was applied to this image as was applied to the first.  The detail in the dark suit has improved, but the cost to the detail in the face is not acceptable.


A useful tool that is available in Photoshop is "Shadow/Highlight" (Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight on the menu bar).  This is useful as it will correct for the shadows or the highlights separatly, so a shadows correction can be applied without upsetting the highlights.  The default setting is 50% for the shadows, which is usually too high, and often 5% to 10% is quite enough.


In this example, the shadows have been lifted to reveal more detail, but without damaging the detail in the face.  The shadows will still darken when sent to be printed, but this will help stop the shadows going to solid blocks of black.