This tip is so easy and so fast that at times it will have you scratching your head and wondering why you weren't doing it before. I use it every day here at Image Masters and when clients are in the office and see the results on our screen (it takes about 2 seconds) they can't believe that such a minor change can have such a huge impact on their photograph.
It's like magic and so we dubbed this Levels adjustment, "Magic 10" and it's super easy. In fact all you have to be able to do is type the number 10 and the number 245. I kid you not! That's it! Let me explain....
First off I'm going to save you all that photo printer guy mumbo jumbo and Photoshop black magic stuff and just say our secret lies in the knowledge that our Epson printers love working in a (Levels) colour range between 10 and 245. One cautionary note too: It won't work all the time but even on those occasions when it isn't perfect, it will be close and likely only require a tweak here and there to get your image where you want it to be.
Our Magic 10 Levels adjustment is simply a quick system to change your Black Point setting to 10 and your White Point setting to 245...See, told you it was easy! And since a picture is better than a thousand words, I'll do a quick visual review and then show you how to set it up as a Levels preset. And, if you're familiar and comfortable working in Levels you can jump down to Item 4. So here's the "before" image we're going to work on...
At full size you'd see the colours are a just a bit washed. Greens aren't where they should be in both the background and foreground and I wouldn't mind a bit more definition to the beach grass. It's not a bad picture but I'm always wondering if there is more that can be pulled out of an image. So let's find out if there is.
For CS6 users, just click on the Levels Adjustment tap up top (circled in red)
For those using CS5 or lower you can open your Levels adjustment layer using your Image drop down menu.
Now that we have Levels open and running, you see a screen like this and I've circled (in red) the Black Point adjustment (on the left) and White Point (on the right) and this is where the, "it's way too easy" Magic 10 happens!
I really wish I could make this more complicated, so that I could awe you with my knowledge and expertise but you're about to discover how really easy this is....Step One: Click on the "0" under Black Point and type the number "10". I'm serious. That's step one and you're halfway done!
And by now you've probably guessed that step two is to click on the White Point box and type in...you got it....245. Told you it was crazy simple and if you were working on an actual image of your own, you would have already seen the changes that happened.
Sometimes it is very subtle, sometimes not and all the time it can be tweaked with those sliders. For our image, the final looked like this....
Being a screen shot, you may not be able to see the changes between this an our opening image but the greens are greener and the beach grass came to life...and that was before we did any tweaking.
Since we use this to look at every photograph that arrives at Image Masters and I'm such a lazy guy when it comes to key strokes (typing means I haven't got a free hand for my coffee mug) so I've set up the whole process as a Levels Preset. Now one hand on the mouse and one for my coffee and in the blink of an eye, I've got a preview of my Levels adjustment. Here's how to set it up...
See that little drop down icon circled in red? Click on that.
Making sure you still have an image open with the 10 and 245 filled in, just click on the Save Levels Preset
Type in a name for the preset, something like, Bill's Absolutely Amazing Levels Preset That I Wished I Knew About Before....Or maybe something a bit simpler :) Once that's done and you've clicked save, you can recall and apply that preset by clicking on the Levels Preset that you can see peeking out from behind the blued Custom menu in this screenshot.
Always keep in mind that photography is an art form, so looks are always something that is subjective. It's what your eye likes or what your client wants and this Magic 10 tip is simply a process that gives you a starting point. Many times it will be all you need but that's not written in stone and use those sliders to play and tweak that image until it's looking the way you want it to look.