Levels

If you want to understand how Levels really works, you're in for a long technical ride. On the other hand, if you just want to know what it can do for your photos, the short explanation is that it adjusts the brightness of your photo by redistributing the color information; Levels changes (and hopefully fixes!) both brightness and color at the same time.

If you've never used any photo-editing software before, this may sound rather mysterious, but photo-editing pros can tell you that Levels is one of the most powerful commands for fixing and polishing up your pictures. To find out if its magic works for you, click the Auto Levels button. Figure 11-7 shows what a big difference Levels can make to your photo. Download this photo (squirrel.jpg) from the "Missing CD" page at www.missingmanuals.com, if you'd like to try this out yourself.

Figure 11-7. A quick click of the Auto Levels button can make a very dramatic difference in how vivid your photo is. Left: The original photo of the squirrel isn't bad, so you may not realize how much better the colors could be. Right: This image shows how much more effective your photo is once Auto Levels has balanced the colors.

Figure 11-7. A quick click of the Auto Levels button can make a very dramatic difference in how vivid your photo is. Left: The original photo of the squirrel isn't bad, so you may not realize how much better the colors could be. Right: This image shows how much more effective your photo is once Auto Levels has balanced the colors.

What Levels does is very complex. See Chapter 12 for lots more information about what's going on behind the scenes with Levels and how you can apply this command much more precisely.

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