Post #460

The Shadow/Highlight tool in Photoshop CS

4th August 2004, mid-afternoon | Comments (33)

In Photoshop CS (and CS only) go to: Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight and have a play with the menu that appears. As the example below shows, using this tool you can pull quite a lot of detail from the dark and light extremes of your photos (not that it always results in a better image, of course) without disrupting the overall balance of the picture.

Two photos of a mushroom
You can pull some amazing detail from shadows and highlights using this tool

To learn more, read Greg Downing’s ‘Digital Editing Tip: Shadow/Highlight Tool in Photoshop CS’ article.

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Comments (33)

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  1. Chad:

    That is amazing, the details it brings out on the underside of the mushroom. And I see you are enjoying that new lens of yours.

    Posted 4 minutes after the fact
  2. ACJ:

    Yep, I've came to realize this when I was playing around with the new tools. I think it's one of the most useful additions to the set of tools.

    Posted 5 minutes after the fact
  3. Rob Mientjes:

    That will come in handy when I ever (forget the "ever"!) shoot a photo that is quite close to crap. Never knew this was there too. Only used Levels and Hue/Saturation much, but this will certainly be one of the more used tools in my toolbox. Thanks.

    Posted 36 minutes after the fact
  4. Jeremy Flint:

    I also like how it changed the brightness on the top of the mushroom.

    Nice tip Dunstan.

    Posted 43 minutes after the fact
  5. Scott:

    Cool, thanks for the tip Dunstan. I don't have Photoshop right now as I don't have access to my 'good' computer, it's away in California getting a new hard drive. Thanks for the tip for when I get it back though!

    Posted 49 minutes after the fact
  6. Jon Hicks:

    I've effortlessly arsed up many a photo with this tool ( I know 'RTFM'). Thanks for the link to a tutorial

    Posted 52 minutes after the fact
  7. Mark Tranchant:

    Not to knock it - as it is clearly improving the mushroom immensely - but this is just an automated application of the Curves tool, innit?

    Posted 52 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  8. Swt GA HunnyB:

    Wow, what a difference!

    Posted 55 minutes after the fact
  9. Ian McFarlan:

    It's so easy, wow. Thanks for the tip, makes things much easier and clearer. Kudos to you and Greg.

    Posted 59 minutes after the fact
  10. Dunstan:

    Mark, I think it's much more than just a repackaged Curves tool — I certainly was't able to replicate the results of Shadow/Highlight using only Curves, but then maybe that's just me.

    Posted 1 hour, 16 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Mark Tranchant
    Inspired: ↓ Andrei Herasimchuk
  11. Matthom:

    You can also do something similar by going to Image - Adjustments - Variations, and play with the Shadow and Highlights options there. This is also available in Photoshop 7, and maybe earlier - I'm not sure.

    But the method you mentioned is a bit quicker, and it's always good to post Photoshop tips, because it's easy to forget things. Now that you mentioned it, I may try using it more.

    Posted 1 hour, 23 minutes after the fact
  12. Jason:

    Good god in the goose fat, that makes a huge difference. Thanks!

    Posted 1 hour, 24 minutes after the fact
  13. Andrei Herasimchuk:

    It is more than a repackaged Curves tool. Todor and Chien (the two brilliant engineers who work on a lot of the algorithmic stuff in Photoshop) found a way to analyze an image and recursively move through it to correct shadow or highlight detail. As the algorithm moves through the image, it's analyzing whether a radius of pixels fall into a shadow or highlight area and corrects to the slider value.

    The end effect is the feature locking down certain areas while it fixes others. This brings out detail in ways that are both subtle in those areas, but dramatic in the overall scheme of the photo.

    To do this with Curves would require multiple layers, each with detailed layer masks to lock out certian areas. Further, with Curves, you would still have the issue that curves "pull" pixels in directions (it's a curve so the correction is distributed over the curve). So as each layer overlaps, areas where the layer masks overlap create competing corrections on the pixels in that overlap.

    Shadow/Highlight bypasses all of that, while also producing a superior image in many ways to that technique.

    It's the kind of feature we'll see more of in the second decade of graphics software. The first decade was getting the bare bones, brass tacks sorts of things working. We are now moving past that, building features based on the wealth of knowledge collected in that decade.

    Now, In Photoshop we have Shadow/Highlight and Replace Color. With InDesign, we have a text engine that can analyze across multiple pages to create the best color for text with the least amount of hyphenation, awkward word and letter spacing and river control. Illustrator is getting some new features in this respect as well, but you'll have to wait and see what they are.

    Shadow/Highlight definitely is a killer feature.

    Posted 3 hours, 22 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  14. Ben:

    Oy! The original photo is full of depth and shadow and feeling. The processed one is flat and dull!

    Posted 4 hours, 34 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Andrei Herasimchuk
  15. James O'Malley:

    Not to be an Open Source whore, but GIMP 2.0 has this too. I wondered if it would achieve the same results, so I reproduced what you have here, with:

    Filters -> Colors -> Filter Pack

    In Gimp 1.2 series it's

    Image -> Colors -> Filter Pack

    I've used this for ages in Gimp, so I'd hardly call it "Next Generation" And if you want to see how it works, source code is included (no secret algorithms). I've never compared the results with Photoshop (stopped using it in 1998, whatever version that was).

    Now I know how well Gimp performs with respect to Photoshop. I'm happy to confirm that in Gimp 2.0 I get identical results.

    Cool, thanks.

    Posted 4 hours, 50 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Andrei Herasimchuk
  16. Dunstan:

    Ben, that's why I said "not that it always results in a better image, of course", my example was there to highlight the sorts of dramatic changes you can make. It's up to you to decide to what extent you use it.

    Posted 7 hours, 16 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Ben
    Inspired: ↓ Ben
  17. Andrei Herasimchuk:

    James said: "Now I know how well Gimp performs with respect to Photoshop. I'm happy to confirm that in Gimp 2.0 I get identical results."

    The GIMP does not have similar functionality to Shadow/Highlight to my knowledge, and the algorithms created for Shadow/Highlight are relatively new thinking in image processing, so I would doubt anything like it that produces the same result has made its way to something like the GIMP yet. A simply filter matrix is not what Shadow/Highlight does. It does much more at its heart.

    Since you haven't used Photoshop since 1998, I also doubt you understand the differences between what Photoshop can do today and what the GIMP does today. That's kind of like having an opinion about a controversial movie without having seen it.

    Posted 7 hours, 47 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ James O'Malley
    Inspired: ↓ James O'Malley
  18. Andrei Herasimchuk:

    The image Dunstan uses simply shows what kind of detail Shadow/Highlight can reveal. How much one uses it or what one does with the image after that detail is brought back is up to the artist.

    The point is simply that Dunstan can create the same mood of the original with the detail of the second image. He just hasn't done that yet. He's just showing the before and after once the feature was used.

    This new ability to reveal detail in the shadow or highlight regions is now more accessible given the Shadow/Highlight feature than it ever was previously. It's another tool in the toolbox. To be used with all the other tools to control one's creative process.

    To simply complain that the original photo had more depth or feeling is to miss the point, or miss the possible benefit available to you as an artist.

    Posted 7 hours, 52 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Ben
    Inspired: ↓ Ben
  19. Ben:

    Indeed. My comment was more to draw attention to your points exactly -- I wasn't meaning to be critical. Just observing. :-)

    Posted 8 hours, 2 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan, ↑ Andrei Herasimchuk
  20. James O'Malley:

    Well go ahead an try out The Gimp. Go ahead, give it a shot.

    And I'll admit, well, I didn't get "identical" results, given that I didn't feel like futzing around with it for hours to get the EXACT details, and given that possibly Dunstan was working off of much higher resolution images to start with. But I achieved basically identical results, shadows brought out without damaging the rest of the photo... and not just brighter like you are implying.

    With that said, and what I see before me, I stand by my assessment of The Gimp. It does exactly what you describe in your informative post (which actually explained very well what goes on behind the scenes). The Gimp might not take the exactly same approach, but I'd put it up against Photoshop any day, by what I've seen people do with it and Photoshop.

    BTW, you can download it and test it out for yourself. It's available for MAC, Windows, Linux and any other POSIX-like environment that you like.

    I, however, cannot download, purchase, or steal a copy of Photoshop to test out on my Linux workstation. What? Get it working under Wine? No way, even I am not that masochistic.

    Posted 8 hours, 25 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Andrei Herasimchuk
    Inspired: ↓ Andrei Herasimchuk
  21. Andrei Herasimchuk:

    "BTW, you can download it and test it out for yourself. It's available for MAC, Windows, Linux and any other POSIX-like environment that you like."

    I'm very well aware of what the GIMP can do. I worked on Photoshop for many years and always kept an eye on what the GIMP did. For OSS, the GIMP's features are nice and acceptable for some work. As a free alternative, it's great if you think it does what you need. Especially if you can handle the UI, which I find pretty much a deal breaker. Typical of too much OSS, IMHO the GIMP suffers from a very poor UI, even after version 2.

    But the GIMP does not have a feature that does what Shadow/Highlight does from what I have seen or can tell. Just experimenting with the Filter Pack you point out shows that it doesn't do what Shadow/Highlight does.

    For example, in that Filter Pack dialog, how do I adjust the shadows and the highlights *simultaneously* to correct in one pass with the algorithm analyzing the adjustments as they relate to each and not go two passes which creates a more degraded result?

    Better yet, why don't you post a sample or have Dunstan send you the original image and prove the results "are the same."

    "I, however, cannot download, purchase, or steal a copy of Photoshop to test out on my Linux workstation."

    Given that, maybe you should reconsider espousing an opinion based on limited knowledge -- that being a lack of taking the time to grab a Win download of Photoshop and test it out on a Win partition on your Linux box.

    Since you have not used or tried Photoshop since 1998 and are unwilling to find a way to see what it does do, maybe you should reconsider a statement like, "Now I know how well Gimp performs with respect to Photoshop. I'm happy to confirm that in Gimp 2.0 I get identical results."

    You are speaking from an admitted lack of knowledge -- as if to encourage others to believe the same thing -- forming an opinion on half of the facts. So you withdraw the "identical" portion of the statement... I suspect with a little more investigation, you'll discover it's even more than that.

    Posted 9 hours, 18 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ James O'Malley
    Inspired: ↓ James O'Malley, ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Dunstan
  22. James O'Malley:

    I'll take that bet. What are you gonna put up?

    Dunstan, wanna send me the original? I promise to use ONLY Gimp to achieve the results you have posted here. You have my email from your post form, right?

    Let's rumble!

    Posted 9 hours, 39 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Andrei Herasimchuk
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  23. Dunstan:

    Well, I've sent James the original image (a fairly small 500x333px file) which I used for my example above, so we'll see how he gets on.

    I guess the best thing to do would be to email whoever wrote the GIMP and ask them if it works in the same way as the PS filter... get a definitive answer.

    Maybe I'll email them and ask.

    Posted 10 hours, 4 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Andrei Herasimchuk, ↑ James O'Malley
  24. James O'Malley:

    Okay I am sending the image to Dunstan. Short story: Images came out very nearly identically (much better than original, probably about 95% of Photoshop) I had trouble with top of the mushroom. I just couldn't get the contrast, those nice, smooth browns and the sharp little blemishes. The Filter Pack feature of Gimp worked pretty well on the shadows, midtones, but fell down on the whites.

    But... in the end a much simpler trick prevailed. The old copy layer, desaturate, invert, overlay, and gaussian blur, did just as well.

    Oh well, I'll leave it to Dunstan to post if he wishes. The folks here can judge. I'd say I was nipped at the wire, and demand a rematch for the next Gimp development cycle *G*.

    Posted 13 hours, 7 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  25. James O'Malley:

    And a bit more information: the copy layer, desaturate, overlay, gaussian blur, technique doesn't really work very well on your average snapshots. I usually use the Filter Pack and it does a fine job with bringing out details in poorly exposed amateur snapshots. In the mushroom's case, the former technique prevailed. I really don't know why... is that mushroom psychedelic, Dunstan?

    Anyway, there you have it. I guess that's why they say YMMV.

    Posted 13 hours, 21 minutes after the fact
  26. Teller:

    James - how long time did it take you? I mean now that you know the process? I understand that it's still quite some steps to be made...

    I've been using shadows/highlights for as long as I got PS CS and find it really valuable. Only problem I've noticed is that on pictures where you need to go heavy on the highlights it really boosts the colour as well giving an over-saturated result. Of course then you can turn to desaturate.

    Disclaimer as well - I think GIMP is excellent tool, gives many users option for free advanced photo editing software. If I didn't have PS from my work I wouldn't be sure if I'd buy it myself.

    Dunstan - what's the results?

    Posted 16 hours, 29 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  27. Dunstan:

    Right then, I got James's altered image, and I have to say he's done very well:

    It doesn't quite seem to have the contrast of the Photoshop version, and the top of the shroom isn't quite as detailed either, but all in all it's a jolly good effort — I can see why he was so keen to take up the challenge.


    [1] The GIMP can produce pretty good results if you're willing to spend some time with it (it's a pretty torturous process though);
    [2] These results aren't quite to the same level as Photoshop (I could have taken the Photoshop example further than I did, and pulled out more detail from the highlights);
    [4] Photoshop achieves more, in a much simpler way;
    [5] And according to Andrei it does so in a much cleverer way, as well;
    [6] If you've got Photoshop, use Photoshop;
    [7] If you haven't, use the GIMP;
    [8] But if you want the best result, use Photoshop.


    Posted 19 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Andrei Herasimchuk, ↑ James O'Malley, ↑ Teller
  28. Andrei Herasimchuk:

    Agreed with Dunstan's summary.

    Further, a range of images would confirm the more dramatic differences going on with what Photoshop is doing in Shadow/Highlight as compared to all the steps one has to do with the GIMP. (Which can be done within Photoshop as well obviously.)

    I still find James comment that the two images "came out very nearly identically" to be far from accurate. By my eyes, they not very close at all.

    Posted 19 hours, 43 minutes after the fact
  29. James O'Malley:

    That particular photo took me a long time, if only because I like a good challenge *G*. I tried all kinds of tricks to get the top of the mushroom as good as Dunstan's. Obviously I didn't quite get there though. What I think is that the Gimp developer's have concentrated on shadows/midtones more so than highlights.

    Like I said though, I'm up for a rematch next version.

    Posted 21 hours, 28 minutes after the fact
  30. Josh:

    It appears to me that HP was first with releasing an extraordinarily similar (yet obviously less flexible) algorithm with their "Adaptive Lighting" feature on their PhotoSmart 945 camera

    It even does its processing on the Camera RAW data before converting to JPEG. Demo images on HP's website appear to give pretty astonishing results, though I haven't had a chance to use the camera myself.

    Posted 1 week, 3 days after the fact
  31. Kevin McCaul:

    Very useful. You know how to make things edible. Thanks!

    Posted 3 weeks after the fact
  32. Rosalyn McFarlan:

    Really interesting but would this work well on the average snapshot?

    Posted 7 months, 2 weeks after the fact
  33. Greg Wostrel:

    The shadow/highlight tool is awesome. As for the GIMP/PS CS dust up - I am with Andrei, the images are barely close. Hardly nipped at the wire, I would say. The GIMP may be useful but it is no Photoshop.

    Posted 1 year, 7 months after the fact

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