The greatest tool that I take advantage of in PhotoShop are the layers and the ability to mix layers. Using layers I can take full advantage of the lightest highs and the darkest lows. The trick is to copy the background layer twice leaving you with three layers while always leaving your bottom layer in the normal mode. The upper two layers can vary depending on whether you would like your highlights or your darks to be the dominant portion of the photograph. Now, select the top lay and switch the layer mode to screen. Then go to the next layer and switch the mode multiply. Multiply and screen are exact opposites of each other so when you have all three layers open, you are now back to how the original looked before with one major difference; you now have control of your highlights, mid tones, and the dark tones. The easiest way to see this control is to turn the opacity slider on either the screened layer or the multiplied layer.
The best way to describe multiply and screen goes like this: With screen, the dark or black portion of an image is removed while the highlights are emphasized over the bottom layer. Multiply works the other way around where all highlights or whites are removed while darks or blacks are emphasized over the bottom (normal) layer. The advantage is that you can control the amount of highlights and shadows to equalize the mid-tones. This is similar to adjusting levels but with more control. Using the eraser tool comes in handy to erase high levels on either the screen or multiply layers.
PhotoShop has many different ways to do the same things. It is all based on the user and how the user can effectively get the job done. If you are not familiar with layers, I would suggest playing around with them and get the basic concept of how they can be used. With unlimited layers, the end result has unlimited possibilities.
"The Dragon" sk2005
"Burning Passion Series" sk2005
"Fireworks at the Taste" sk2005
"Christmas in Kansas City" Lights series - sk2005
"Dew Drop" - sk2003
"Winter in the woods" sk2004
"Home Celebration" sk2005
" The Country Fair " Gravitron - sk2005