Selective brightening

Posted: 13th November 2011 by Jacky Yong in Photography
Tags: , , , , ,

This is going to be very similar to the screen layer method that I posted earlier. The objective is the same, to brighten up otherwise very dark and contrasty pictures. The earlier screen method does work, but it involves a lot of mouse pushing, brushing, painting and a lot of eye work. Not usable for mass collection of photos to be touched up. So is there a way to select only the dark areas and brighten them up instead, just like Lightroom’s very own impressive Fill Light.

Pictures shows us much more than words, so here’s how a picture would be like before it is fixed.

Dark building, bright sky, recipe for photography disaster

This picture can be saved using the earlier mentioned screen method, but do you notice the tree leaves bordering the sky? Do you want to paint the mask over meticulously? Not for a lazy fag like me! So is there a way to only selectively brighten up only the dark areas of the picture? Luckily there is, and fortunately it is also a very easy step.

First create a Levels layer onto your image:

Look at the adjustment dialog. You should see three triangles, black, grey and white. For now, just adjust the grey, push it to the left to taste:

Okay, the next step is the crucial step. This will create that mask that only encompasses the bright areas. With the Levels layer still selected, go to Image -> Apply Image. You will see this dialog box:

Check the “Invert” box. Click OK. Notice anything different? Check the thumbnails image. You will notice that Photoshop has created a layer mask based on your image’s brightness! How cool is that?

If you see not much difference, you can actually still adjust the mask, by selecting the levels layer, then Image -> Adjustment -> Contrast. This will only affect the layer mask, not the final image directly.

Based on the same logic, one can also image that the image can be darkened by selecting only the bright areas, and not checking the “Invert” box in the Apply Image dialog box. Also one can also apply the same selection method to adjust other parameters like contrast and saturations. Go on and give it a try!

  1. Ling Wei says:


    I will be having wedding lunch reception on 25th Dec 2011 at kingwood hotel, Sibu. Will you be available to provide photography service?

    I look forward to your prompt reply to

    Best regards,
    Ling Wei