Living in a town that is driven by travel and tourism, I notice two things are frequently happening around me—people taking photos, and people asking for directions to some place they will undoubtedly take more photos.

We’re in the theme parks all the time and I see many photo faux pas: shooting into the sun (hello, family silhouette), pictures at noon while the family has on hats (goodbye smiling faces), shots of the killer whale from row 134 of the stadium (what’s that black dot in the photo?), and the shot of grandma in the shade next to the kids are in the sunlight…oh, I’m sure there’s more.

But what I’m not sure of is why I’m the one who always get asked for directions. Am I the unthreatening-approachable-dad-type? Or maybe they know I’m local due to my lack of socks when wearing flip-flops.

Anyway, I get asked.

Oh, and I answer. My head quickly calculating the route I’d take to avoid traffic, stoplights, tolls…or perhaps I should respond with directions where I can remember all of the road names and exit numbers.

And then there’s the point-a-to-point-b-so-easy-to-understand-even-when-you-don’t-speak-the-language.

Yeah, that’s the one where I draw mickey years in the air as I point left and right.

Soooo…what does all this mean?

I’m gonna use one of the photo faux pas and show you that there’s at least three routes to travel in fixing it.

See how I segued there? Huh? Huh? Bringing it all together.

 

Use Adobe Photoshop Elements to retouch dark areas in your photos

My kids doing crafts on the porch. You can see the sunlight casting in on the porch in the background, so my son is exposed properly (although he looks unhappy). But my daughter in the foreground is either super tan or was in the shade.

Adobe Photoshop Elements can handle this, and what’s cool is that there are at least three approaches to fixing this (and just about any) photo. They are simply editing modes based on your skill level in using the software.

Edit Modes

Quick Edit Mode: This offers beginning users a simple way to edit your photos using an intuitive interface while maximizing some really powerful features. In other words, can you point to a picture? Then you can edit all your cat photos like a boss.

Guided Edit Mode: As long as you can read, then this mode provides some easy-to-understand direction on using more advanced features as you edit your photos—an opportunity to learn and prepare for Expert Mode.

Expert Edit Mode: Calling all geniuses, or is it genii…well I don’t need to be one to use expert mode. It offers the full array of Adobe Photoshop Elements’ editing tools to adjust color problems, add effects and retouch your photos.

If you are impatient, like to read or just new to the software, stick with Quick or Guided Edit modes.

So I’m gonna tackle this using all three edit modes. Like a genius.

Fixing a Photo Exposure Problem

 

Using Quick Edit Mode, I have a number of options on the right side of the window that can fix my uneven exposure. For the sake of comparing apples to apples, I will edit the “levels” of the photo.

Using Quick Edit Mode, I have a number of options on the right side of the window that can fix my uneven exposure. For the sake of comparing apples to apples, I will edit the “levels” of the photo.

Clicking on Levels reveals some buttons that allow you to focus on the shadows, midtones or highlights in your photo. Since my daughter is dark, I will select shadows, then I simple choose one of the small photo icons to adjust. See the blue box around the small photo icon in the Levels palette? That represents my starting point of adjustment.

Clicking on Levels reveals some buttons that allow you to focus on the shadows, midtones or highlights in your photo. Since my daughter is dark, I will select shadows, then I simple choose one of the small photo icons to adjust. See the blue box around the small photo icon in the Levels palette? That represents my starting point of adjustment.

Here you can see that the shadows have lightened considerably, and I’ve selected the preset adjustment by clicking the third photo icon. I like where this is at, and got here with only a few clicks of the mouse. You could go on to adjust the midtones or highlights of a photo, making them darker or lighter. At this point I could save the photo and be happy.

Here you can see that the shadows have lightened considerably, and I’ve selected the preset adjustment by clicking the third photo icon. I like where this is at, and got here with only a few clicks of the mouse. You could go on to adjust the midtones or highlights of a photo, making them darker or lighter. At this point I could save the photo and be happy.

But…not so fast. I want to see how Guided mode works. You can see once you click on the levels palette a very brief instructional appears. It describes how the level adjustments work in an easy to understand manner. Click “done” and you get to try out the levels palette…

But…not so fast. I want to see how Guided mode works. You can see once you click on the levels palette a very brief instructional appears. It describes how the level adjustments work in an easy to understand manner. Click “done” and you get to try out the levels palette…

The first thing that happens is Adobe Photoshop Elements creates a new layer. It’s what they call an adjustment layer, so you can make the adjustments to the photo that you want, but if you change your mind you can come back to the layer and edit again later. Here you can name the layer.

The first thing that happens is Adobe Photoshop Elements creates a new layer. It’s what they call an adjustment layer, so you can make the adjustments to the photo that you want, but if you change your mind you can come back to the layer and edit again later. Here you can name the layer.

Now the Level palette appears. The first thing you notice is that you get a little chart-looking thing. That’s a histogram. By adjusting the little arrows on the bottom of the histogram, you can lighten or darken different value ranges in the photo. The little triangle slider on the left is for shadows, the one in the middle for midtones and on the right, for highlights.

Now the Level palette appears. The first thing you notice is that you get a little chart-looking thing. That’s a histogram genius. By adjusting the little arrows on the bottom of the histogram, you can lighten or darken different value ranges in the photo. The little triangle slider on the left is for shadows, the one in the middle for midtones and on the right, for highlights.

Here you can see I slid the midtones slider to the left, essentially lightening all of the mid-tonal ranges in the photo. Her face is lighter and I have achieved pretty much the same result I did in quick edit mode. There are more options for adjusting using the levels palette but I can only skim the surface here.

I slid the midtones slider to the left, essentially lightening all of the midtones in the photo. Her face is lighter and I have achieved pretty much the same result I did in quick edit mode. There are more options for adjusting using the levels palette but I can only skim the surface here.

Now back to the original shot to edit with Expert mode. In expert mode, I’m going to focus on just adjusting the levels of my daughter, and not the rest of the photo. To do this I need to select the area of the photo I’d like to adjust. I use the Lasso selection tool and traced the area around my daughter. See the little white and black line around her? Well that’s the selected area, and on screen it looks like marching ants walking around her.

Now back to the original shot to edit with Expert mode. In expert mode, I’m going to focus on just adjusting the levels of my daughter, and not the rest of the photo. And show off that I’m an expert. (naaahh.) To do this I need to select the area of the photo I’d like to adjust. I use the Lasso selection tool and traced the area around my daughter. The Lasso tool looks like a lasso. Genius. See the little white and black line around her? Well that’s the selected area, and on screen it looks like marching ants walking around her.

Now, I will create an adjustment layer, just like editing in Guided mode did for me. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels…

Now, I will create an adjustment layer, just like editing in Guided mode did for me. But I’m doing it myself because I’m an expert genius. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels…

Name your adjustment layer…

Name your adjustment layer…

And now the levels palette appears. You’ll notice on the right side of the screen I have the layers palette shown. You can see the adjustment layer highlighted in blue, but you’ll also notice there is a little black and white icon—that’s a layer mask. The layer mask was created automagically since I had a selection active when I made the adjustment layer. This means any adjustment I make will only affect the selected area (the white area in the little icon).

And now the levels palette appears. You’ll notice on the right side of the screen I have the layers palette shown. You can see the adjustment layer highlighted in blue, but you’ll also notice there is a little black and white icon—that’s a layer mask. The layer mask was created automagically since I had a selection active when I made the adjustment layer. This means any adjustment I make will only affect the selected area (the white area in the little icon).

So now I make my level adjustments and my daughter is looking better. And because I used the adjustment layer/layer mask, my adjustments do not affect the rest of the photo, where the exposure is okay.

So now I make my level adjustments and my daughter is looking better. And because I used the adjustment layer/layer mask, my adjustments do not affect the rest of the photo, where the exposure is okay.

Here’s the finished shot. It looks better but could still use some work overall. But that’s for another time. You get the picture.

Here’s the finished shot. It looks better but could still use some work overall. But that’s for another time. You get the picture. lol.

And that’s three ways to solve your problem using Adobe Photoshop Elements. For many of you, just a few clicks and you’re off and running. For those genius know-it-all experts, you can see that the same power-packed features available to you in Photoshop are right here in a lighter, faster package. Now feel free to comment about the 8,000 other ways you would have approached this. ‘Cause you will. And you can visit the Adobe Photoshop Elements Facebook Page and share your work, find other tips or maybe tweet and let the awesome folks at Adobe know Dadand sent you—because we’re good at giving directions.

Disclosure: Dadand received review software and compensation to test and post about Adobe Photoshop Elements—a company whose products we love and use everyday. We believe in every product and service we review at Dadand, and promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Thanks for coming.

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