The photographer in us knows that it is unwise to take pictures when the sun is at it's highest and shadows at their sharpest, but the human in us knows that life doesn't care what the lighting is and happens anyway. The result is pictures like this.
I took this at the petting zoo. It was probably 11 am. the sun was bright and there were lots of shadows from people and shelters.
You can play with levels and contrasts all you want but this is going to take some more tricky hands on work. Why? levels work by making whites whiter and blacks blacker. In this case there is no way it can recognize that the white of Jaden's outfit is the same color as my dad's shoe there in the shadow.
First we duplicate the layer. Ctrl J or drag it down to the new layer icon.
Now while active on the TOP layer we are going to use levels to brighten up the shadowed area. Image - Adjustments - Levels Slide the little arrows under the level histogram to the left to make it brighter.
Now we can see much more details in our shadowed area. But you can see it completely blew out Jaden. He's glowing and his colors are way off. This is why we duplicated the layer.
Still on the top layer, use the eraser or if you're like me and prefer masking you can do that too. to use the mask click on the add layer mask button (not available in Elements I believe).
Paint with black over the too bright parts using a big soft brush, smaller as you get to the edges. If using the eraser, erase the too bright parts.
If you have a hard line on the face like I do you may have to blend a little by using greys instead of black on your mask. it's up to you to decide what looks the best in your picture and can take some practice to get used to.
That's it! Not hard, but a bit time consuming. Lets check out our before and after.
Now we have a decent photo! You can see much more detail where before you may not have even been able to see what Jaden was pointing at.
You may also have noticed that the areas that were in shadow have lost some color. You cand try some saturation boost, but there's not much you can do about that since the camera didn't catch the color to begin with. If it's bad enough, after you get the picture balanced like this sometimes it's just best to make it black and white.
Also if you have more bright than shadow you can darken the top layer then erase the areas that are too dark. Here's some more of what I've done using this technique.
Now it's your turn! Let me see what you can do to fix your shadow and sunlight pictures that you thought would never be scrap worthy!