Occasionally I am asked to take some photos for a website client, perhaps a picture of their facility, staff, or examples of landscaping they have done, etc. Like all or most competent web designers in the Atlanta area, I own a professional camera, multiple lens, and I have Adobe Photoshop on my computer.
None the less, when I look at the photos on my screen, they never look quite as good as I imagined them looking. The reasons are simple.
- The best cameras have 1/10th the tonal range of the human eye. (thank you God)
- The light meter in your camera is far from perfect.
- The places you typically take photos have far less than perfect lighting conditions.
- I am far from perfect.
Hence the first thing I do is bring up the photos in photoshop and use an adjustment layer tool known as “levels”. On the menu, it is image, adjustments, and levels. This will bring up a histogram, which is visual representation of all the pixels in your image. See below:
Most images look best when they utilize the full range of dark to light which can be displayed on your screen or in a print. As you can see there is a huge gap in your “very dark or black pixels” on the left side of this histogram, so moving the black point slider over to the starting point of the slope will greatly enhance the tonal quality of your photo. You may additionally want to experiment with the midtone slider to see what looks best. Below is a sample of a before and after histogram.
Rather than continuing this post and trying to further explain how this all works, I would suggest you watch this short video from the folks over at lynda.com.