Preset picks: The ON1 MacArthur preset stacks two instances of the ON1 Textures filter and adds the Dynamic Contrast filter to give the look of a textured, sun-faded vintage colour print.
Contrast, in its simplest sense, is the different in brightness between two tone. In photography it's usually taken to mean the brightness range of a picture – the difference in brightness between the brightest and darkest parts of a picture.
But the appearance of 'contrast' doesn't always depend on this full brightness range. You can often get images which have a full range of tones from dense black to a brilliant white but still look 'flat'.
This is usually because they have overall contrast but lack it in the most visible part of the image – the midtones. So often you can give a picture more apparent contrast by using a curves adjustment to steepen the curve in the midtones. Where the curve is steepest, the contrast is strongest.
Now, there's also 'localised contrast'. This is where the contrast is increased or optimised differently in different parts of the picture. Lightroom's Dehaze effect uses localised contrast enhancement. Clarity and Structure tools also increase localised contrast around object edges.
Contrast is an essential ingredient in almost all pictures, but getting enough of it and in the right places can often be a challenge.
How to get great black and white in DxO PhotoLab… but you’ll need FilmPack 5
DxO PhotoLab can create superb black and white imagery, both in terms of image quality and in creative control, but you need to get the DxO FilmPack 5 Elite add-on to do it. This does make things more expensive, and it does feel a bit like you’re paying for some things that other programs offer […]
10 tips for curves adjustments
Almost any image-editor worthy of the name offers curves adjustments, but they can be tricky things to get right. It’s easy to overcook the results or fix a problem in one area only to cause a problem in another. So here are ten top curves tips to show how they work, what they can and cannot […]
Dehaze vs Contrast, two ways to boost images
Images often need a contrast boost to give them a little more life and intensity. It’s a perfectly ordinary technique we’ve been using for years. Tone curve tools or simple contrast sliders are used to push the bright and dark values in the picture further apart to increase their separation (and, ideally, without ‘clipping’ extreme […]
Looking for an instant boost? Try this three-step fix in Capture One
We’ve all been there. You’ve got a shot that’s fundamentally sound but lacks rich, strong colours or any kind of atmosphere. They can be tricky to fix and you can spend hours experimenting with settings that don’t seem to get you any closer – and you don’t want to resort to flashy and obvious effects […]
Lightroom portrait tips to put power into your people shots
You’ll probably want to take a softly softly approach with female portraits, but male subjects usually demand a different style. Here are some Lightroom Classic portrait tips for giving your pictures a more powerful, grittier feel. I want to give this outdoor shot (above) a grungy, contrasty look, and I’ve got a favourite set of […]
Discover the power of Silver Efex Pro Soft Contrast
The Soft Contrast slider is one of the new features introduced in Silver Efex Pro 2, and its effects are quite different to the regular Contrast control. At first it can seem quite difficult to work out a use for it, but you’ll soon discover when you start digging around in the presets that it […]
How to boost contrast in Photoshop Elements with overlay mode
Photoshop Elements does not have the curves feature found in Photoshop itself and many other image-editing programs, and many people cite this as one of its limitations. I don’t really agree. There’s always more than one way to do anything, including modifying the contrast, and I find this ‘overlay’ method so quick and useful I […]