Shadow and highlight enhancement

Shadow and highlight enhancement

Shadow and highlight enhancement refers to an image processing technique to correct exposure. Images with over and under-exposed areas can be recovered with the Shadow/Highlight tool in Photoshop. Though this tool can be used to darken overexposed highlights, it is used primarily by professionals to brighten shadow areas.

The use of this technique is becoming more and more popular, making its way onto magazine covers, digital media, and photos. It is, however, considered by some to be akin to other destructive Photoshop filters, such as the Watercolor filter, or the Mosaic filter.

Recovering Shadows

A conservative application of the shadow/highlight tool can be very useful in recovering shadows, though it tends to leave a telltale halo around the boundary between highlight and shadow if used incorrectly. A way to avoid this is to bracket your photo and combine the photos, though, combining bracketed images is difficult, and most of the time requires usage of a tripod.

Recovering Highlights

Recovering highlights with this tool, however, has mixed results, especially when using it on images with skin in them, and often makes people look like they have been "sprayed with fake tan".

Manual Ways to Brighten Shadows

If you are using Photoshop 7 or under, there are many other manual ways in Photoshop to isolate shadow areas and brighten them. One way to do this is to duplicate your background layer, invert the copy and set the blend modes of that top layer to "Soft Light". You can also use an inverted black and white copy of the image as a mask on a brightening layer, such as Curves or Levels.

Automatic Shadow Recovery Methods

There exist a number of automatic computer image processing-based shadow recovery and dynamic range compression methods that yield a similar effect. Some of these methods include the retinex method and homomorphic range compression. The retinex method is based on work from 1963 by Edwin Land, a scientist at Polaroid. [Russ, John C. "The Image Processing Handbook, 5th Ed." CRC Press 2007, pg. 147.]

Shadow enhancement can also be accomplished using adaptive image processing algorithms such as adaptive histogram equalization or contrast limiting adaptive histogram equalization (CLAHE).


See also

* Tone mapping

External links

* [ Shadow/Highlight Tool Overview at Dpreview]
* [ Shadow/Highlight Tutorial]
* [ Ron Bigelow Shadow and Highlight Detail]

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