Digital Spotlight With Adjustment Levels

with 17 Comments

Nannette Dalton pic

One of the things that can help to make a layout really shine are the photos. Not all of us can afford a fancy camera, including me. I use a little point and shoot Panasonic DMC-ZS5.

But with a little help from Photoshop, I can usually find ways to help my photos be the star of my layout.

Today I will show you a quick and easy technique for your photos that will pull your eye right to the focal point of the picture and really make the whole picture pop, so your pictures and layouts can “shine.”


Step One: Open and Duplicate Photo

  • Open the image you want to work with (File > Open).
  • In the Menu Bar, choose File > Duplicate and click Ok to accept the name in the dialog box.
  • Close the original file.

Note: It is never a good idea to work with original files. Simply working with a copy of the original ensures that the original file is not altered in any way.

Step Two: Make a Selection

  • In the Tool Bar, get the Elliptical Marquee tool.
  • In the Options Bar, make sure the New Selection icon is active.
  • On the document, drag a selection outline around the part of the image that you want to use as your focal point.

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Refine Edge.
  • In the dialog box, set Feather to 150 px and click OK.

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Inverse.

Step Three: Turn on the Spot Light

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Click OK when the dialog box pops up to confirm the new layer name.
  • In the Adjustments panel, drag the Shadow Input slider to the right to about 50-65. Different photos will requite different settings.
    (Photoshop CS6: You will adjust the slider in the new Properties panel.)

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Flatten Image.
  • Save your picture with a unique name.

There you go! You have now created a soft spotlight that highlights the focal point of your picture.

Digi Scrap Tutorial: Digital Spotlight with Levels, by Nannette Dalton
Layout: Soulmates, by Nannette Dalton
Brushes: Mission Possible by Michelle Shefveland, wbi-love quoted by Wild Blueberry Ink., JS Swirl Set From Jessica Sprague
Kit: Me Personally by Taylor, previously available to Digital Scrapper Premier Members October 2011
Software: Photoshop Elements 10 and PS5

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

17 Responses

  1. Mungo
    | Reply

    Thanks for this helpful tip, the finished photo looks vibrant

    • Sheryl
      | Reply

      You really highlighted the people by using this technique. Your layout is simply beautiful. I look forward to trying it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. jayleigh
    | Reply

    i have no idea why all of you tutors talk about always making a copy of the photo and not working on the “original.” Maybe it is only my OS imports a copy when i drag a photo on to CS3, but it does. i have Vista (not the most up-to-date OS) and i’ve never dragged the “original” as you call it onto CS3 – or even PS when that was version i had. Does your OS leave a space in the folder when you drag the photo onto your workspace? Or is it “elements” that does that? Or are you just not aware that your OS creates a copy when you drag it to your work space?

    Even if i move a photo folder to my EHD, a copy of the folder is now on the EHD and also on my HD of my LT, so it is very puzzling to me to always get notice to make a copy of the photo before attempting any procedure on it so as not to ruin the original. Am i the only one whose OS just copies the photo when i drag it to my work space?

    This is a very good tutorial, but i just don’t understand the mandate to make a copy because “it’s not a good idea to ever work on the original.” i mess with my photos all the time – adding lens flares to cover a distracting element that be cut out or blended in, desaturating to create BW photos, or using a blend mode for sepia tone – and not one time have i “ruined” the original or lost it in the process of messing with the photo i dragged to my work space. i am curious as to why this is always the first step in any tutorial i’ve read.

  3. jayleigh
    | Reply

    Sorry for a double post here, but i think the suggestion to always make a copy may be because you think someone would fail to give a new name to the photo and thus lose the original because it would be over-written. i never do that – i always give the changed copy a new name – but maybe i answered my own question if this is the reasoning for duplicating the photo… eh?

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      That is it exactly. We are just taking extra precautions to make sure nobody loses their precious photos. There are several ways of doing it we are just making sure that we cover all our bases we have to consider that there are varied degrees of ability levels of those using our tutorials.

  4. OuisieKelly
    | Reply

    Great tutorial and page. The difference is amazing. The photo is elevated to ART. Thanks a lot.

  5. Aileen
    | Reply

    This is particularly working well for me on old photographs I’ve scanned in from about 1880-1920. Sometimes the people seem to blend into the background and this makes them stand out more. Thanks!

    • Nannette
      | Reply

      Yes I can see how that would really make those pictures pop great idea.

  6. Jenifer Juris
    | Reply

    Nann – LOVE this!! It’s another one of those, why didn’t I think of that?! Thanks for another awesome tut!! 🙂

    • Nannette
      | Reply

      Ahhhh….thanks you’ve made my day.

  7. Bev
    | Reply

    Excellent – it work exactely as planned Thank You It was so easy to correct my pic….

  8. Cass
    | Reply

    This method also works well with other adjusment layers as well. Some really unique looks with the photo filter

  9. Renee
    | Reply

    Thanks Nannette – what a great tip! I have a few pictures where this technique will be perfect.
    aahhhh….these editing programs can do so much….if only we knew how! lol!!
    Thanks to you I know a lot more and have loads of fun trying.

  10. Margaret N. Orr
    | Reply

    Thank-you for this great tip… I look forward to playing…

  11. Jo Clendon
    | Reply

    This tutorial was recommended to me, but I can’t see (even after logging in) the actual instruction bit of the tutorial, just the before and after shots and all the comments. Could you please check for me, as it seems to have disappeared? Thanks! Jo

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      Hi Jo.
      Sorry about that. This tutorial has been moved into our Premier Member area. You will have to have Premier access in order to read it.

  12. Jo Clendon
    | Reply

    AHA! Well I was a premier member up to 5 days ago when my annual membership ran out. I wonder why I didn’t get a renewal notice?

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