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Using Basic Brightness/Contrast Controls on Your Digital Image

Many photo-editing programs offer one-shot brightness/contrast filters that adjust your digital photo automatically. Most programs also provide brightness/contrast controls that let you specify the extent of the correction in your image. These brightness/contrast controls are easy to use and almost always produce better results than the automatic variety. (The steps, below, apply to Photoshop Elements, but all image-editing programs should follow the same basic approach.)


To make a very basic brightness/contrast adjustment, select the Elements Brightness/Contrast filter on the Enhance→Adjust Lighting menu.

The Brightness/Contrast dialog box appears.


Drag the sliders to adjust brightness and contrast.

The Brightness/Contrast filter is easy to use because it adjusts all pixels by the same amount. But often, you don’t need to make wholesale exposure changes.


If you want to make a more selective exposure adjustment, select the area that you want to alter before applying the filter.

With an area selected, your changes affect the selected pixels only.


If you use Elements, Photoshop, or some other advanced photo editor, use the Levels filter or the Shadows/Highlights filter.

These filters allow you to make more complex adjustments to your images.


Use any other exposure tools that your image-editing program offers.

For example, Elements offers Dodge and Burn tools, which let you “paint” lightness or darkness onto your image by dragging over it with your mouse. Check your software manual for information about using these exposure tools.

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