I remember when this tool was first brought to my attention – I was like OMG – this is so awesome! With it you can check for blown highlights AFTER processing. Many times we open our image in ACR and adjust exposure to make sure the highlights are not blown – we then edit – and if you edit like me you will blow highlights. It happens. Image looks fabulous on screen but in print there is no detail in some areas.
I am going to introduce the magic of the THRESHOLD LAYER. I use this on images to check for blown highlights and then use a levels layer to adjust so my images will print well.
Here is my image that came out of ACR and into Photoshop with no blown highlights but I process bright…
The image looks pretty good – looks fine on screen. A tad bright but ok – but if I go to print this image there will be no detail in the wall because it is completely blown. Here is an EASY way to check for blown highlights.
Open your image in Photoshop.
Go to Adjustments and click on Threshold.
See what this did to your image? Most likely it’s black, white or more likely it’s speckled with both. 255 in highlights is blown. Some people like to keep highlights under 250. I prefer to play it safe and bring them down to 245. So for me I will adjust the right side to read 245.
Here is my image with threshold set at 245.
Anything that is WHITE is higher than 245 which means there is a possibility of it being blown. It could be anywhere from 245-255 with 255 being no detail. I want to bring that detail back to those areas. This is how I do it.
Keep the threshold layer on (so you see the black and white image) then highlight the Background layer.
Under the top menu go to SELECT > COLOR RANGE. Click on the white part of your image. This will select only the areas that are blown (or over 245 in this case).
Go to Adjustments and click Levels. Now you will automatically have a mask on the levels layer with only the blown areas selected. You can now turn off the threshold layer so you can see your image again.
This is where we will adjust the brightness of the highlights. On the right side of the BOTTOM slider (output) change the 255 to 245.
Your photo now looks uh… weird. Here is what mine looks like:
Now we don’t have any blown areas. You can check by turning your threshold layer back on. Your image should be completely black or very close to it. There may be a couple spots that are white. That’s fine – these are at 246 and still printable. You can even check this by turning your threshold layer back on and changing the 245 to 246 if you would like to.
OK so now we have the image with no blown areas but it’s quite frankly – really ugly… and we wouldn’t want to hand that over to a client!
Now we want to blend the two areas as they meet up. Check to make sure your threshold layer is off. Open your levels layer.
Slide the midtones slider to the left until the gray and white blend together. I brought mine all the way to 3.89
Now turn your threshold layer on again and look. All black. No blown highlights. It’s like magic!
Final image with no blown highlights and safe for printing:
If you enjoyed this edit please leave a comment on the blog and share with friends! Feel free to recommend other editing techniques you would like to see!