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How do I fix a photo that lacks contrast?
A common complaint is that a photo often lacks contrast. It just doesn’t seem to have that richness or depth that a good, strong image has. This could be really common if you’re shooting under harsh lighting or low lighting levels. Let me show you some different strategies for quick fixes. Let’s use our next image here and I’ll go back to fit the image and just look at it here without a compare view. Now this image looks pretty good, but I’d like to make a few improvements. First up, up here under the basic section, one of the things that you can do is increase the contrast.
Now images that lack contrast can have more contrast. The only challenge with this slider is it sometimes tends to cause dark areas to lose a lot of detail. As such, you might need to increase the shadow slider to recover and those two working together did okay. Let’s click auto for a second here and you see that Lightroom is suggesting less contrast. Instead of contrast, try some clarity, which is a bit more selective and you see it really start to bring out the clouds and the shadows in the hill.
I like that quite a bit. I’ll lift the shadows so its details aren’t lost. It really works well. Additionally, there are two other areas to consider. From the tone curve, you could easily add a curve. One of the things people will often do is just apply a simple preset for contrast. Medium contrast or strong contrast and you see that it now lowers the shadows slightly and lifts the highlights. This makes it simple here to do a little bit of a lift to the highlights and crush the shadows.
Additionally, under the effects section, there’s one other thing to consider and that is dehaze. This is good for environmental issues like fog or mist. Now if you overdo this, it tends to be too aggressive but a slight increase can really help add some definition and cut down on some of the impact of fog or clouds. Now let’s take a look at this side-by-side and you can see that the image on the right has substantially more contrast and depth.
Alright, let’s do that one more time but quickly. With the image selected, I will take advantage of auto-toning. That helps quite a bit. Then a little bit of clarity is going to help bring out selective contrast. I prefer that addition instead of overusing the contrast slider. You could tweak the shadows and highlights as needed. Just be careful not to recover too much or you’ll flatten the image. If you need a little bit more, come down to the tone curve and you’ll find easy presets here for contrasts.
Remember, these can simply be adjusted as well, allowing you to recover more or less. But generally speaking, contrast means brighter whites and darker shadows. If the image suffers from a little too much haze or environment, you can use the dehaze slider down here in effects and add a little bit more. You could easily store this as a preset. So if you decide that you want this for your images, just come over to presets and click plus.
Now, you could take advantage. For example, I can get rid of the white balance and the tone, but keep the curve and the clarity. Lose treatment and color and split-toning, but do keep the dehaze. And you see here, this is a simple preset. I can give it a name called contrast boost and click create, storing it in my user presets folder or any other folder that I create. I’ll give that a look over.
I’ve got tone curve and clarity and dehaze. I’ve given it a name and chosen a location and I’ll click create. Now in the future, it’s super simple. If I need a contrast boost with one click, I can add it. If I need to apply that to this image, there’s my one click contrast boost and you see that it’s quickly applied to enhance the image. In this case, only the chosen properties have their sliders moved and any other existing sliders that already had movement were left alone.
Making a contrast booster preset is a great way to quickly pop your images.
Rich has published over 100 courses on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.