Adjusting Shadows and Highlights in Photos

Two of the most useful adjust controls in Photos are the Shadows and Highlights adjustments. You can bring out detail in dark or bright portions of a photo without changing the rest. An overall light adjustment slider also can bring out the real color of a photo.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Adjusting Shadows and Highlights in Photos.

The Photos app in Sierra actually includes a pretty powerful image adjustment tools. If you go to a photo and then you click on the Edit Photo button here you'll get a list of different tools you can use here. Go to Adjust and you've got three different sets of adjustments. You can click in it and move this line back and forth and adjust light, color, or make the photo black and white and do the adjustments there.

But you can also expand by hitting these little triangles here. I'm actually going to hit the one next to light and you can see I've got individual controls for brilliance, exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, and black point.

In this video I'm going to focus here just on highlights and shadows because I find them to be fascinating. Particularly when you have a photo like this. Highlights will basically take the lightest part of the photo, the brightest lightest part. So in this photo it would be mostly the sky here and a little bit of the clouds and it allows you to adjust them. Shadows does the opposite. It takes the darkest part of the photo. You notice here I've got this group of trees here on a ridge and it looks just all black there. But I remember taking this photo and I certainly could see trees there when I saw it so I know that I could probably adjust the photo to bring it closer to what I actually saw with my own eyes.

So to do this I'm going to drag the shadows line here. If I drag it to the left the shadows get even darker and you can see there's even less detail there in the dark places. But if I drag it to the right you can see it increases the detail without changing the sky and the clouds very much. It just increases the detail in the darkest places and you can definitely see that there are trees there now.

Highlights does the opposite. It will do a lot of adjustment here making say the brightest part darker or brighter. You can see I've removed a lot of the details back here in the sky by turning it up too high. So I could probably do some nice adjustments by turning down the sky a bit and turning up the dark areas so I can see more of what's here. The photo definitely is looking a lot closer to how I remember it when I do this.

Let's go back to the original here. I'm actually going to use the slider here at the top which will adjust all of these together, analyzing the photo and trying to figure out what to do with it. It turns out that when I move this to the right here, notice it turns down the highlights and moves up the shadows. So it determined the same thing that I did. That there were some dark areas in here that had some detail in them but were way too dark to see and the bright areas were dominating too much. If I actually turn this all the way up I end up with something pretty decent. Maybe something right around here is really good and then I can continue by increasing the brightness of the shadow areas even a little bit more and the highlights down a little more to create a photo that's a little bit closer to what I actually want.

When I press Done the photo stays that way. But in Photos everything is saved so if I go back into Edit Photo I can Revert to Original anytime. It remembers the original. So you can make adjustments like this, do things with the photo, leave it like that knowing that at some point in the future if you ever want to get back to the original you can.

Comments: 2 Responses to “Adjusting Shadows and Highlights in Photos”

    Kerrie Redgate
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much, Gary! I haven’t really explored the Photos app. This is great! I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with Photos, iPhotos, and Pictures, not knowing where I should be storing images and what the difference is between them, but this video will have me using the Photos app more deliberately. Terrific!

    Lynda Farabee
    2 years ago

    Great video, Gary! I didn’t know about the last feature you showed: moving all the adjustments at one time! That is very interesting and helpful. Thanks for your efforts.

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