An extremely useful editing tool for fine-tuning brightness and contrast in a digital photo is the Levels Adjustment. When Levels is selected within an image editing program such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, it brings up a histogram. A histogram is a visual display of the pixels from black to white in an image.
By moving the sliders in line with the histogram, you can adjust brightness, contrast and tonal range as well as bring out more detail in darker areas of a photo. A levels adjustment will also help eliminate the “flat” look often present in unedited digital images.
Each photo has it’s own distinct histogram. Start by adjusting the black areas (left slider), then the white areas (right slider) and finally, the midtones (middle slider).
Note where the black and white sliders are positioned. Adjust them so that the black and white sliders are lined up under the data in the histogram. You can also change color balance by selecting an individual color Channel and making similar adjustments.
Adjustments are a matter of personal taste, so experiment until you’re happy with the outcome. Always work on a copy of an original. If you make a mistake, you can go back and work from another copy of the original.
Effects of histogram changes on an image
If your image editing software does not have histogram, use the brightness and contrast tool. Some basic programs, such as Picasa, have sliders to easily add Fill Light or adjust brightness and contrast in the highlight and shadow areas of an image.