Most of us have been using levels in Photoshop to tighten up our shadow and highlight end points in our images. As an alternative to this we have the opportunity to explore the colour balance inside photoshop to achieve something similar but with another twist.
In this example we are using Levels to bring the tighten up the highlight and shadow end points. The Levels adjustment layer is available in the pull down menu, Layer / New Adjustment Layer / Color Balance, it is also available on the bottom row of the layers palette, 4 icons from the left (looks like a half black, half white circle).
Before applying levels
After applying levels
notice how the pointers at either end of the histogram have been moved slightly towards each other, this adds more impact to the image.
To make your photographs look more natural you may need to work the colour balance inside Photoshop. This technique is going to work using the colour balance adjustment layer. This example will show the values that i have been using, however, the idea is to show you the process and you can then experiment to find something that suits your style of image making.
To create a cleaner and more impactful look i will add some blue into the shadows (+8) and some yellow in the highlights (-8), using the colour balance adjustment layer (i have used two layers to show it in this example, but you can just use a single layer).
After applying the Colour Balance adjustments
To see the final image and turn on and off the layer groups, please click this link.
It is worth trying different combinations in all areas of the image, including specifically highlights and shadows. The values that i use are dependent on my camera, lens and style. I would urge you to try different settings and choose your look and feel.