Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Simple Adjustments To Make In Photoshop

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop - Brightening, Shadows and Colour Adjustments

These are the basic but essential adjustments that you may need to make to give your images added punch. Also, these shots are important to the client so make them the best you can.

You can apply these processes to any of your images, not just interior shots, and it is worth practising. I use these procedures for most of my shots these days. Because of this, bright, bold and punchy images have kind of become my "signature"


Start by making the simple levels adjustments;

Shadow and Colouring in Photoshop - IMAGE - ADJUSTMENTS - LEVELS

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Fig. 1

As in fig.1, bring the black and white sliders to the base of the "mountain range" watching the image change as you go. Try not to darken the shaded areas too much here.

Shadow and Colouring in Photoshop - Brightening

Next, we want to generally brighten up the image giving it a “fresher” look. To do this we need to just select the darker areas and bring them into line with the rest of the image, but do it in a subtle way. Start by going to;


And when the box appears, click on the select drop down menu and select highlights and click OK.

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Fig. 2

This will select all of the highlighted areas but we need the opposite, so go to;


(You can also select this by right clicking on the image)

Now we have the shaded areas selected, but if we made any adjustments at this point, they would appear too harsh and obvious, so we need to soften or "feather" the selection.


(Again you can also select this by right clicking on the image).

A box will appear asking you for the pixel radius that you wish to feather. I usually select from between 20 and 50 depending on how severe the change from light to dark in the image is.

If it is a subtle change, use a lower figure. If the difference between the dark and light areas is more severe, use a larger radius, this will help to "soften the blow".

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Fig. 3

What you should have now, is a selection of the shaded areas with running ants around them. If you now bring up the levels box again, you should have some more adjusting to do. Bring the right (white) slider to the base of "the mountain" again and watch the image change.

Make sure not to blow out any highlights and stop when the image looks bright enough.

Shadow and Colouring in Photoshop - Shadows

If you have Photoshop CS or later, you can also use the "highlights" tool with "SHADOWS/HIGHLIGHTS" to bring out more detail in the darker areas. In this image, the garden and door to the right.

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Fig. 4

Again, make only subtle adjustments to the shadows here (maybe 5-10%). If the image appears a little washed out, don’t worry too much. Using the curves tool in a minute will sort that whilst adding some nice contrast.

An alternative to the Shadows/highlights tool would be to simply use the dodge tool.

Select a "fuzzy" brush with a diameter matching the area you wish to highlight. Set the hardness to zero. This will blend any alterations nicely.

Set the "range" to SHADOWS and the EXPOSURE to 1% only. Using these settings will mean that any changes you make will be gradual as not to overdo it.

NOTE: I check the alterations each time by doing the following as quick as I can;

  • CTRL+ALT+Z – to revert back and
  • CTRL+SHIFT+Z – to redo

If you switch back and forth with these you see the changes "come and go" and you can asses whether it needs more or less adjusting.

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop - Colour Balance - Red/Yellow Casts

Depending on what lighting and white balance settings you have used, you may end up with a red or yellow colour cast. We can adjust this quickly and easily to really bring out the whites in your image. This method also works well with blue skies and really enriches the colours.

As in the image below, go to;


And a new box will appear.

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop

Fig. 6

With the mid-tones checkbox ticked, move the CYAN - RED slider to the left to gradually decrease the red in the image. Move the YELLOW - BLUE slider to the right to decrease the yellow cast.

Make these changes very subtle, no more than around +/- 5. Now click the highlights checkbox and do the same, but you can make slightly "bolder" changes here if you like.

As you make these adjustments, you should see the colours start to change. The whites should become brighter and the red or yellow cats should vanish.

Don’t overdo this stage as you can blow out any of the highlights.

Click the "preview" button on and off to see the effects and adjust if necessary.

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop - Curves

Finally, use the curves tool to subtly add a bit of contrast to the image. Maybe a touch of saturation to finish it off.

All of the alterations above seem fairly tame and minor when done individually. However, when combined, they can dramatically alter the image and give it some Pzazz!

Shadow and Colour in Photoshop Before


Shadow and Colour in Photoshop After


As I said at the beginning, these adjustments can be made for all of your images and really add extra punch and clarity to them.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Stuff from the Blog

Check out our latest articles below