Easy trick to bring back highlights and shadows

Photoshop is the perfect tool for retouching. But sometimes it takes a lot of work to do something simple. In this post you learn an easy trick to bring back highlight and shadow details. 

Our starting photo. Notice the shadows are underexposed at the bottom...

Have you ever made a brightness adjustment layer to find that you are over exposing the sky or darkening the shadows. You did not bracket your photos and you did not use a graduated filter on location. Here is a solution that is fast and easy. 

Brighten the photo however you like using Brightness/Contrast, Levels, or Exposure adjustment layers but don't worry yet about over exposed areas. 

Right click on the newly created adjustment layer and select "Blending Options" . Near the bottom of the Layer Style dialog box, hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key and drag the "Underlying Layer" white input slider to the left. As you drag you will see that the highlights are being recovered. 

To lighten the shadows use the same technique but instead of the white input slider, drag the black input slider to the right.

You can also hold the Alt / Option key and drag both sliders inward to restore highlights and shadows to your taste. 

Just like that we recovered some details in the highlights / shadows and it only took seconds. Here how it looks with the blending options applied.

In our final image, we recovered the shadows in the lower half of the photo using layer blending options