Photography ~ Adjusting Exposure With Levels

photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

The title might seem a little too scary. But you totally don’t have to be scared when it comes to photography tutorials over here at this little site of mine. Because my tutorials are just not difficult. Maybe because my thinking doesn’t get difficult (uh-oh).

And so here I have another simple yet effective tutorial for you.

The technique that I’d like to show you today is magical. I have used it to edit my pictures for the past few weeks. Yes, only weeks, because it was just a few weeks ago when I discovered it. But man, do I wish I’d found it much earlier. As you’ll see, the Levels adjustment turns dull, lifeless images into ones that seem to pop right off the screen in a matter of seconds…


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop
Here is the original picture with no editing at all.


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop
And here’s the same picture, after I’ve made some Level adjustments.

As you can see, there’s more contrast in the picture, the colors are richer, the shadows are black and not gray, and the picture is brighter as well.

I like that. I like that lot.

Here are the steps that have transformed the picture:


(Note: I am using Photoshop Elements 8 in this tutorial. But I am quite sure that this can be done in any editing software there is.)


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

1. Open the picture in Photoshop with FILE -> OPEN.


2. In the upper menu bar go to LAYER -> NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER -> LEVELS.


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

3. This window will pop up. Click OK.


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

4. On the right-hand side a so called ‘histogram’ appears. The histogram shows 255 different shades from pitch black to pure white, and how much of the photo has which particular shade.

What we want to do now is to get rid of the space where no information (‘black hills’) appear.


5. To achieve that just move the left and right triangles towards the center to where the bulk of the black starts, as illustrated above.



photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

6. Then click LAYERS in the right-hand palette. Then CTRL+SHIFT+E (on PC)/COMMAND+SHIFT+E (on Mac) to flatten all layers into one.


7. Finally, press CTRL+SHIFT+S (on PC)/COMMAND+SHIFT+S (on Mac) to save the picture.

And that’s it.


photography, adjusting exposure with levels in photoshop

And here we have both pictures side-by-side again, before and after.

I hope this information will help you to make your pictures even more awesome than they already are.


See you soon.



19 thoughts on “Photography ~ Adjusting Exposure With Levels

  1. 1
    Sue says:

    Thanks Petra! I can really see the difference in your photos and look forward to playing around with this tip. Cheers!

  2. 2
    Andie says:

    Hi Petra! What happens if I don’t use Photoshop but, let’s say, Nikon ViewNX 2? Could you post a tutorial on that too? Thank you so much! Andie

  3. 3
    Biz says:

    I have photoshop elements and only use the auto correct button – silly me! Thanks for the tip – can’t wait to try it tonight! 😀

  4. 4
    Michaela says:

    Tvoje rady su ako vzdy super, ale mna tu zaujalo nieco ine. Ten pernicek 🙂 taky nam vzdy moja babicka nakrajala k detskej kavicke poobede o 15.00hod, ked sme u nej travili letne prazdniny 🙂

  5. 5

    Great tip. I have looked at that histogram before, but just scratched my head about what to do with it. Now, I know — thanks to you! 😉

  6. 6

    What an amazing tip! I’ve already done some sample attempts, and photos I thought were OK are now great! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. 7
    Danielle says:

    I’m so anxious to get home and try this! I love how your image pops after the adjustment was made. Thanks!

  8. 8
    Farwin says:

    Hi Petra,I’m new to food blogging and photography.I love your blog and follow it.great tips.Thank you so much for sharing

  9. 9
    Sofia says:

    Once again great trick 🙂
    Your easy tutorials are already improving my photos! Please keep up 😉
    Thank you so much!

  10. 10
    SamCyn says:

    I’ll definitely have to try this technique. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. 11
    Thuy says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for all the great photography tips. It has help me tremendously on the picture quality for my food blog 🙂

  12. 12
    Sara says:

    I just got PSE and found your blog googling how to use it with food photography. I am bookmarking your site to help me get started! This is great!

  13. 13
    Amey says:

    Great tips! I just started a food blog on tumblr and was looking for ways to jazz up my photos. Thanks! Love your recipes as well 🙂

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