How to Adjust Exposure in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

The Exposure adjustment in Photoshop CS6 is primarily meant to correct tonal values of High Dynamic Range images, which are 32 bits. (In layman’s terms, the more bits, the better the color.) You can apply Exposure adjustments to 16-bit or even 8-bit images, as well. This command works by using a linear color space, also known as gamma 1.0, rather than your image’s color space, to make tonal adjustments.

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If you use the Exposure adjustment with 16-bit or 8-bit images, the slider’s adjustments may be too drastic. Hold down the Ctrl (Command on the Mac) key when your mouse is over the number field and drag to access the scrubby sliders, which offer a less-dramatic adjustment when you slide the control. Also, keep an eye on your image. The Exposure adjustment sometimes clips, or loses, data on lower-bit images.

To apply the Exposure adjustment, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Image→Adjustments→Exposure.

  2. Adjust any of the following:

    • Exposure: This option adjusts mainly the highlights and pretty much ignores the darkest shadows.

    • Offset: This option darkens the shadow and midtone values, and leaves the highlights alone.

    • Gamma Correction: This option adjusts the image’s gamma, or midtone, values.

  3. Use the Eyedroppers to adjust the luminance, or brightness, values in the image.

    Note that this is different from Levels, where the eyedroppers adjust all the color channels:

    • Set Black Point Eyedropper: Sets the Offset. The pixel you click becomes the black point.

    • Set White Point Eyedropper: Sets the Exposure. The pixel you click becomes the white point.

    • Midtone Eyedropper: Sets the Exposure. The pixel you click becomes the middle gray value.

  4. Click OK to apply the adjustment.

    To save the settings, click the Save Preset button (to the right of OK). Name the preset and click Save in the Save dialog box. Apply the preset later by clicking the Load button.

The HDR Toning adjustment enables you to apply HDR contrast and exposure settings to your images. While mostly aimed toward 32-bit images, it can also be applied to 16-bit and 8-bit images.

To apply the HDR Toning adjustment, follow these steps:

  1. Open a 32-, 16-, or 8-bit image.

    Make sure the image is in RGB or Grayscale mode. Also, your image cannot contain any layers and must consist of a Background only.

  2. Choose Image→Adjustments→HDR Toning.

  3. 3. Choose your desired method from the pop-up menu and any subsequent settings.

You can use HDR Toning to create a stylized appearance — oversaturated, overly sharp, and illustrative. Play with the Glow and Detail sliders under the Local Adaptation method and experiment.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/sstop Image #4198903]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/sstop Image #4198903