Out of Gamut: Don’t Underestimate Photoshop’s Auto Color

It’s Not Automatic, but It IS Quick and Easy
This is one of those techniques that takes a great deal longer to explain than it does to execute, though my painstaking blow-by-blow description might lead you to believe otherwise. The quick version goes:

  1. Open Levels.
  2. Press Options.
  3. Adjust Shadow clipping.
  4. Adjust Highlight clipping.
  5. Click the Midtone swatch.
  6. Adjust the Midtone color.
  7. Click OK to close the color picker, click OK to close the Auto Color Correction Options dialog, click OK a third time to close Levels and apply the changes to the image.

With a very little practice, this becomes a very quick and easy way to optimize the dynamic range and fix the color balance in a single step. To show you just how flexible this technique is, here are a couple of images that need less desperate intervention than the one we’ve been working on so far.

Figure 8: This image has too much yellow.

In this late-afternoon digital capture of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies, the golden light is a bit too golden. Three quick tweaks, and the result they produce, are shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: That’s better.

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Another San Francisco landmark shown in a very flat capture in Figure 10 needed a little shadow and highlight clipping to restore contrast, and a very slight midtone color adjustment to produce the result shown in Figure 11.

Figure 10: This image has no contrast.

Figure 11: Now it has better contrast.

There’s only one thing I don’t like about Auto Color. It’s so easy that for those of us who have been used to wrestling images into shape the hard way, getting 90 percent of the way there in three quick tweaks is almost anticlimactic. But I’m getting over it!

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  • anonymous says:

    Although its very cool that the Auto Color feature has an expanded view through the options in the Levels and Curves dialog box, the article doesn’t really explain what to look for in a ‘clipping’ percentage for shadows and highlights. You could play with that percentage all day long and I’m just not conviced that I’m going to get a better image with that.

    Also, I thought that the Auto Levels feature did look for the black point and the light point?

  • anonymous says:

    This is a very good and a very usefull article. I have newly upgraded to Photoshop 7 and I wouldn’t have considered using the Auto Color function except for having read this article.

  • anonymous says:

    Problem using Levels to adjust color balance in Photoshop CS (Windows)- Also see Adobe User Forums, Jul 3, 2005.

    When running Photoshop CS on Windows 2000 Svc Pack 4, Photoshop CS does not Preview image midtone target color changes as expected. Any advice will be appreciated.

    The Photoshop CS resident Help file gives instructions at the page: “Using Levels to set highlights, shadows, and midtones”.

    When following the Help instructions, adjustments in Target Midtone Color using the Adobe Color Picker do not preview as expected and don’t seem to affect the image even when changes are saved. Clipping adjustments in %Shadow and %Highlight do preview immediately in the image.

    To adjust color balance, the Help file says:
    “Choose Image > Adjustments > Levels. Click Options in the Levels dialog box.
    {I also selected Find Dark & Light Colors / Snap Neutral Midtones}
    Click the Midtones color swatch to display the Adobe Color Picker. Enter the values you want to assign to the neutral gray, and click OK. This method has the advantage of showing you a preview of the values you’re assigning.”
    However, I don’t observe any changes in the image from those adjustments.

    A similar tip posted by Bruce Fraser emphasizes the interactive adjustment: (/wp-content/uploads/sites/default/files/story_images/feature/17164-1.html) “As with the clipping percentages, changes to the target color are immediately reflected in the image, so the process is interactive.”

  • Anonymous says:

    I hope its easy as I read…hehe.

    Web Design Company

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using Auto Tone ever since, and I’ve prettify sufficiently confident of its quality to suggest it as the firstly aim to do with unpunished images. I use it on raw scans and digital captures, and it’s tried to be an enormous time-saver. But you do poorness to use it with both tending. The guidelines laid out in this article leave get your images some finisher to where they poorness to be with a few undecomposable tweaks. Insolvency to uprise these guidelines testament probably get you over-contrasty images with dyspnoeal highlights, obstructed shadows, and a colouration move.

    Web Design Company

  • Anonymous says:

    Nice Article

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello, I find nice to be here. Before this i was not much look out photo shop gamut auto color. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad to be here.

  • Anonymous says:

    thank you very much, i will visit here again.

    Web Design

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for a great article. It is 10 years since you wrote this, so I have no idea if you’re responding to comments. You mentioned adjusting the red colors up and the blue down a bit, but never mentioned the green. then, in the last photo, They are all bumped up over the default 128. I suppose I’d like to understand this better, but am thankful for what you have shown me.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very informative article, I’ve been using photoshop for sometime but never really use this feature. But will make a point to use it in near future. Thanks!

    Web Design Company India

  • GiorgosT says:

    thank you very much…!

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