coversI’m neck-deep in yearbooks this time of year – one just about done, the other barely underway!

One thing that comes up over and over, I thought I should share with you.  It makes me CRAZY when I see a page with one or two dark photos!!  I’m always harping on my yearbook kids to check levels on their images before they call the page done  – and this applies to scrapbooks too. 

I often see beautiful layouts that people have worked hard on with dark or otherwise poor images that could be improved with just a few clicks. So here’s what I tell my yearbook kiddles to do on EVERY image (whether  you THINK it needs it or not!):

1. Hold your CTRL key and press L (CTRL+L) to bring up the Levels dialog box.  (If you forget, it’s under Image>Adjustments>Levels in PS;  Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels in PSE)

You will get an image like this: levels

The diagram there is called a histogram – it’s a graph of the lightness/ darkness of the pixels in this image.  Across the bottom is a scale from BLACK (on the left) to WHITE on the right.  The “mountain” is a bar graph showing the number of pixels that correspond with that shade of  grey.  So in this image, most of the pixels are in the midrange, making it low contrast and not the greatest pic.  But we can improve that.

Notice there are flat lines at the right and left of the “mountain”.  This means there are no pixels that are pure black or pure white – giving you a muddy pic. 

To correct this,  you…

2.  Click on the little triangles at the outside edges and slide them in to “meet the mountain”. 

This will make the darkest pixel in the image black, and the lightest pixel in the image white.  You can see the difference it makes, even in this image which I might have thought was just fine: levels2

Just that tiny bit of adjustment made my photo so much more bright and alive! 

You can do this same adjustment in Curves, but I find this quicker and easier for everyday images. 

Now, sometimes you will see a histogram that goes right to the little triangles – great!  Hit CANCEL and you’re done!  But you’ll be surprised just how many images can be improved with this quick method.

Now go check your last layout… are you “on the level”?

Happy Scrapping!


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  1. Sara E says:

    awesome little tip… I didn’t know about that one


  2. Jennifer says:

    I never realized my photos were just OK until I discovered they could be ‘wow’ with PSE. Thanks for this great tip.

  3. D Min says:

    What a great tip. Being new at this, I really am learning a lot. This was a wonderful tip that will improve all my photos.

  4. Sherrie says:

    Thanks so much for this GREAT tip ! I have been needing this for a while ! I am no photographer but at least with PS I have a fighting chance of a good photograph.

  5. Since discovering this a while back, I now “tweak” all my photos a touch in levels. and it makes such a difference.

  6. Beckygtx says:

    Great tip! You need to add that to your tips class. Thanks!

  7. CindyLou says:

    I love this tip. I use it on all of my photos. It really makes a difference. Thank you, I actually think I got this tip from you during a class. See I remember a few things. LOL!!

  8. CarolAnn says:

    Thanks for the tip. Helps to find out a lot of new tricks!

  9. simply sarah says:

    I didnt even know we could do that! I usually play with my photos alot anyway, making dup copies and using different blending techniques and filters but this is great also for pics you just want NORMAL looking.


  10. Zanne says:

    Thanks for the reminder Jenn. I don’t do this to every photo & I guess I should. From now on I’ll try to remember to check every photo & not just the ones I think need it.

  11. LiviaY says:

    Hi Jennifer!

    So sorry about the name mixed up!
    It’s all fixed now! 😀


  12. Stan says:

    I’m really proud Jenn got it done! Luv You Hunny!

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