A lesson in using levels in Photoshop…..

So many of us have really great photographs passed on to us by relatives from an era when photography itself was in its infancy. Miraculously these photos have survived through the years but may now seem dark or faded. In some cases we can bring the photo back to life by balancing the contrast and levels and regain some of the detail that may be lost in the photo.


Start with the photo, if you need to scan it make sure it is scanned at a nice large size (larger than you’d like to print it ideally) and with adequate resolution (at least 300dpi for printing purposes, although with old photos sometimes I scan at 600dpi to try to get as much detail from the original as possible.) Here is an example of a scanned image that has gotten both darker and a bit off color with age. Most of the detail around her face and where she stands is lost in the shadows and the over all image has a greenish cast.



To eliminate that aged coloring on the photo we must first turn it to greyscale (your photo is likely in RBG color profile). To do this, go to your Image Menu in Photoshop, then to Mode, and then to Greyscale. You will be prompted with a message asking if you want to lose the color, choose “yes”. Your image will now be in Greyscale.



Next, we need to bring out the detail in the darker areas. There are many ways to achieve this, but a good beginner way is to use Levels. Go to your Image Menu, then to Adjustments, then to Levels.



This will give you a pop up. By choosing the AUTO button first you will see some marked improvement with the photo as Photoshop automatically readjust the contrast.



After choosing Auto but before closing the pop up box, try sliding the middle triangle a little to the left. What this will do is change only the mid tones in the photo to a slightly lighter shade while keeping the whites white and the blacks black. Slide the triangle until you are satisfied with the outcome. When you look at the darker areas of the photo, can you now see more detail in the face and produce? Can you see more detail in the truck of this photo? Once you are satisfied with the changes, hit ok.


This is a sample of the before and after of this image correction. Be sure to save your corrected file!


Post written by KRSmith.


ProjectCenter is a single-source service company providing marketing and document solutions to small, medium and large-sized businesses in the U.S. area. ProjectCenter is based in Phoenix, Arizona and its services include graphic design, web design, printing, copying, scanning and mailing. For more information, please call (602) 252-6655 or visit or follow us at Twitter.

ProjectCenter’s Facebook Page
ProjectCenter's Facebook Page
Promote Your Page Too


There are 2 comments for this post.

  1. Shazzad Hoshien on February 4, 2011 2:36 am

    OWO!!… Really very nice and easy to learn step-by-step tutorial. Thanks for share…… 🙂
    clipping path service

  2. Graphics and Web Design Firm on April 6, 2011 12:15 am

    Really awesome tutorial. I like it very much because of it will be very helpful with my job. Thanks for share

Write a Comment