Photoshop Tricks: Using a Threshold Layer to Balance Color

Sometimes you can just see that the color balance is off in an image, other times you can’t tell at all until you have corrected it – then it’s obvious.  In this image of the Yellow Warbler I shot yesterday in Morongo Valley the color seemed off.  In the shade of green and yellow trees there had to be a yellow bias in the image.  Here is the original image with its original raw file color temperature:

Yellow Warbler in an image with a yellow caste to it.

Threshold Icon

I used a Threshold Adjustment Layer to reset the white and black points in the image in just a few simple steps.

1- Create a new Layer – Ctl+J.

2- If the Adjustments Palette is not open, go under Window and select Adjustments.

3- In the Adjustments Palette, click on the Threshold icon, circled in red at left.

4- This will create a black-and-white layer that shows a histogram in the Adjustments Palette.  The single slider in the middle can be used to find the blackest point in the image, and the whitest point in the image.  In my workspace setup, this is how it looks:

Threshold and Layer View

5- With this open, you can now establish an actual white and black point in the image – resetting the image colors to conform to those points.  If there is a bias, in this case a yellow bias, it covers the current white and black points as well.  Move the slider (shown at left with a red arrow) to the left to find the very darkest spot in the photo.

6- Zoom in on that spot.  Activate Layer 1 by selecting it, which deselects the Threshold 1 Layer.  You are still looking at the Threshold 1Layer, but you will be working on Layer 1.

7- Open the Levels Dialog box by using the Ctl+L keys.  Select the black eyedropper on the right of the dialog box, and click on the image at the darkest point we just found.  Hit OK to close the dialog box.  You just reset the black point.

8- Now, reactivate the Threshold Layer and move the slider to the right to find the whitest point of the image.

9- Zoom in on that spot.  Activate Layer 1 by selecting it, which deselects the Threshold 1 Layer.  Again, you are still looking at the Threshold 1 Layer, but you will be working on Layer 1.

10- Open the Levels Dialog box again.  Select the white eyedropper on the right of the dialog box, and click on the image at the whitest point we just found.  Hit OK to close the dialog box.  You just reset the white point.

11- Select the Threshold 1 layer and delete it by hitting delete, or by dragging it to the garbage can icon.  Now you have your original color in the background layer, the reset color in Layer 1.  Flash the eye icon on and off to view the changes.  In my example of the Yellow Warble the changes are noticeable, and the reset colors much truer.

Corrected Color.

Since these images are far apart on this blog article, here is a section of the image, before and after the changes, shown side-by-side.

Original Color (left) and Corrected Color (right).

Notice that there is much less yellow color in the vertical tree branch, and the out-of-focus area above the birds back.  The image is slightly brighter as well.  I prefer the image with the color re-balanced.

Resetting the color balance of an image is a tweaky thing, but it can certainly improve the look of the image and return it to how you originally saw it.  BRP

 

 

 

 

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About brentrpaull

Professional Photographer
This entry was posted in Photoshop Tricks. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Photoshop Tricks: Using a Threshold Layer to Balance Color

  1. avotins says:

    Thanks for tip. It’s the best, brief explanation of threshold i found.

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