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SnapSeed is a great little iOS photo editing app. Along with brightness and contrast, it has the ability to alter "ambiance" which does a great job of lightening up shadows while still keeping a nice deep black.

Does anyone know the best way to achieve this using Photoshop? Would it be through the use of curves? Or perhaps adjusting the contrast of just mid-tones or something?

Using my motorbike as an example. Before...

enter image description here

and After...

enter image description here

(You can open the images in separate tabs and switch between them for a better comparison.)

Notice how the shadows in the top-left are a bit brighter, colours are perhaps slightly warmer, but black is still black and highlights are not blown out.

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A before and after image would really help. Not everyone uses Snapseed. –  Scott Sep 21 '13 at 10:02
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1 Answer

Lightroom is probably more suited to editing the image the way you describe but you can certainly do it in Photoshop by using curves or more simply by level adjustments. However, I expect the equivalent you're searching for in Photoshop is Shadow/highlight adjustments.

Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights...

Adjust Shadows

Then warm the image up a little by changing the color balance of applying a warming filter.

You might also like to try:

  • HDR in Photoshop: Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning (HDR, even on a single exposure, can bring out the shadows and increase tonal contrast)
  • Level adjustments: Image > Adjustments > Levels (or use a levels adjustment layer) and pull the midtones (center slider) a little to the left
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