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Colour Balancing with levels

Let us suppose the camera was set for an automatic white balance that did not quite work - or worse - was set for a daylight balance while shooting with incandescent light.

Not to worry.

I have taken the previous picture and imposed upon it grievous harm. Now we will go through the steps together to make it well again. This works with scans of old faded pictures as well.


Here I have created what many should consider a total disaster. Both under-exposed and possessed of a nasty colour shift. I have done screen shots of the red, green and blue histograms and layered them over our demonstration image. As you can see they are in different places.

With a properly balanced image, the histograms will still have somewhat different shapes but will pretty much share the same real-estate.

Red Channel

Correcting the Red Channel

The keyboard equivalent is Ctrl+1.

We proceed in much the same way as we did on the previous page, except we will deal with the histograms of each channel individually.

It is pretty clear where to put the left triangle for setting the shadows, but the right triangle is a judgment call. I have placed it just inside where the graph begins to rise.

In this case, we do not hit "OK", but instead we go to the Channel drop-down list and select the green channel.

The keyboard equivalent to get the green channel is Ctrl+2.

Green Channel

Correcting the Green Channel

Use the same procedure as above with the green channel.

Once again do not click "OK" but rather, select the blue channel.

The keyboard equivalent is Ctrl+3 to call the blue channel.

Blue Channel

Correcting the Blue Channel

Finally, set the highlights and shadows for the blue channel.

As you well may see, we now have a pretty well balanced picture - at least colour wise.

Until you click "OK" you can easily return to the other channels and make adjustments. If you need to trim them a bit, now is the time to do it.

Now you may click "OK"


Highlights and Gamma

Highlights and Gamma

We are back working with the RGB channel mix.

I moved the highlight triangle just a little bit to make the highlights sparkle. There is still a lot of highlight detail, but this is a judgment call.

As with the previous example - since it is the same image - the bulk of the data is on the dark side. I moved the centre - gamma - slider until it looked right on my monitor. Again a judgment call.

I was content with my shadows, so did no adjustment on them. Of course, this varies from picture to picture.

Hit "OK" and do saturation and sharpening as we did on the previous page - if the image needs it.