In this issue's column, I'll work on an image in Elements. But, hey, CS2 users, don't fret! You can follow along and use the same techniques. It's just that some of the palettes and dialog boxes look a bit different.
1. Check out this image, a JPEG file taken at the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York. It's a bit dull because it was taken on an overcast day. What's more, I slightly underexposed the image to avoid the highlights (stairs and railing) from being washed out. If I had shot a RAW file, I wouldn't have underexposed the file, knowing that in Adobe Camera RAW, I could have rescued the overexposed highlights up to one ƒ-stop.
2. The first image enhancement step I often use is Levels, which adjusts the contrast, color and brightness of an image. You could go to Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels and work directly on a copy of your file (never work on your original), but that's not the best way to use the power of Levels, as well as some other image enhancements. Instead, you should go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. An Adjustment Layer allows you to apply your adjustments on a separate layer—leaving your original layer untouched. You'll see why this is important in a bit.
3. The basic suggestion for adjusting Levels is to move the highlight triangle (on the right) inside the mountain range (which shows the distribution of the brightness levels in an image) and then to move the shadow triangle inside the mountain range on the left. For this image, I only had to move the highlight triangle, as the image has good shadow detail.
4. Even after applying Levels, I wanted more color in my image. So I created another adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation) and increased the Saturation by +44.