Contrast Part 5: ………………… Contrast Adjustment Basics

The series’ previous posts illustrated both color and tonal contrast and explained their importance. Today’s post is step-one in showing how contrast can be adjusted.

Part 5 of a series

“All About Image Contrast for Photographers”


Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, GIMP, .. the list goes on

The number of contrast adjustment options is even greater

This post introduces the grand-daddy of

All contrast adjustment tools (& the most powerful)

Subsequent posts will elaborate and

Discuss other members of granddad’s family



Walking the dog in the late afternoon

Saw this enormous cloud

Ran back inside, grabbed the D800E with 70-200 f/2.8 & tripod

Took this shot (the cloud already had lost some of its “punch”)

6-26-2013 4-12-25 PM

Alfred Stieglitz, a famous photographer,

Made a series of cloud photos (1925-31) which achieved fame

I have to admit that I don’t get it

To recap the message of this series’ earlier posts –

There are two basic types of image contrast

Tonal & Color

Each has a different impact on the human vision system

Proper contrast is important for

Image impact (eye-catching vs. ho-hum)

Most  images need post-processing to achieve the best contrast

Straight-from-the-camera contrast is often flat

I plan to do the rest of this series,

The what, why, and how of Contrast Adjustment

In small bite-size pieces (500 words or less)
Maybe 10 or so bites

For the most part I’ll be using Figure 1 (all or pieces of it)

To illustrate the what/why/how

Download a copy and follow-along day-by-day

Reference Print printer 2362x3543pixel

Figure 1

Lesson #1 – The Hallmarks of High & Low Contrast

To begin, we need to recognize high & low contrast when we see it

6-26-2013 9-10-43 AM

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows that the difference between high and low contrast

Manifests itself in two ways

Visually – image “Pops” (high) or it’s Flat (low)

“Pops” is a technical photography term 😉

Histogram – Wide (high) or Narrow (low)

Ed, what is this “grand-daddy” of all contrast tools?

It’s Levels & Curves, or to be more precise

The Curves portion

This is a tool found in one form or another in

Any post-processing software that’s worth using

If you learn to use it,

There is virtually nothing than can’t be done contrast-wise

At least nothing important

Tomorrow, all you ever wanted to know about

Levels & Curves

If you downloaded Figure 1’s test image

It’s an exercise for the interested reader to

Do the high-to-low contrast conversion shown in Figure 2

The high is taken directly from Figure 1

The low was made using Levels & Curves

Easy; not rocket science

Time to go; word count is over 450

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