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by Phil Ball

Q. I just returned from a fantastic vacation with some very interesting photos. I’ve been working through my photos on my computer and have been getting some strange colors. My photo buddy insists that I should establish a black and a white point before adjusting the colors. That sounds backwards to me. What do you think?

A. I agree with your buddy. Just as you need a solid foundation to build a house, you need a solid foundation for your photos, too. So the first thing I do when I open a photo in my photo editor is to establish the black and white points using a feature called Levels. Your photo editor may call it by another name but the idea is to set the white and the black points. Sometimes a low contrast photo, like one taken on an overcast day, will just look dark and murky and usually, a few small adjustments in Levels can really perk it up. Most times, I simply make small adjustments to make large improvements.

Another occasional use is to clean up a colorcast, especially when the colorcast affects the whites like when my snow is not white, for instance. A single click using the white sampler eyedropper can change that grey snow to white and clean up the whole photo.

The point is that the colors will change when you adjust your black and white points so do that first and then you can adjust the color if it still doesn’t suit you.

Published: Courier 8/16/09 - Page 5C