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When we talk about the overall tonality of an image, the range of light and dark values within a photo. The most common attributes we refer to are brightness and contrast. Brightness, obviously relates to how light or dark the overall image is. And contrast relates to how much contrast there is, whether there is a wide range of tonal values, or a relatively narrow range. In other words, an image that has a fair amount of pop to it, versus one that's a little bit flat. Since these are the attributes, we tend to think about most when dealing with the overall brightness values in an image.
It makes sense that these would be the types of adjustments we might want to apply to an image. Let's take a look at the brightness, contrast adjustment. Here, I'm working on an image of a wood pile. I was fascinated by the light and shadows, and the textures throughout. As well as the different colors, and I'd like to enhance the overall lighting in the image. So, I'm going to go ahead and choose Enhance followed by Adjust Lighting and then Brightness Contrast. This will bring up the Brightness Contrast dialog where we have two sliders, Brightness and Contrast. Very simple.
The Brightness slider allows us to lighten or darken the overall image. Moving the slider to the right will brighten the image and moving the slider to the left will darken the image. Generally speaking, I prefer to start with contrast however. So, I'll go ahead and set my Brightness value back to 0, and then take a look at Contrast. Moving the slider to the right, we increase the overall contrast in the image, and moving the slider to the left will decrease the contrast. Reducing contrast can actually help pull out shadow detail in an image, but it can also leave the image looking a little bit flat.
So, you'll want to be careful if you're reducing contrast. When increasing Contrast, you want to make sure that you're not producing an effect that looks a little bit too strong. Where shadows are too deep and highlights are too bright. So generally, a relatively modest increase in contrast will serve you best. But evaluate the effect in the image, making sure that you're happy with that result. Once I've adjusted contrast, I'll then focus my attention on the overall brightness in the image. Part of the reason I save brightness for after contrast is that contrast can have a relatively strong effect on shadows.
And that can influence the final Brightness level that I want to apply. So, I'll adjust that overall Brightness slider. In this case, I think I'd like to move things a little bit over to the right brightening things up just a little bit. This helps to see more of the texture and creates a little bit stronger impact in the image I think. Of course, I can always revisit Contrast. For example, if at this point, I feel that with this level of brightness, the contrast is a little bit too much. I can then reduce the overall contrast just a little bit.
That's looking much better. But one thing that I really recommend doing when applying adjustments to an image is to preview the Before and After. When working on the brightness contrast adjustment, you'll notice that we have a Preview check box. I can turn that check box off to see the before version and turn it back on to see the after. For this image, you'll notice that the adjustments that I've applied do not create a dramatic change in appearance. And very often, a relatively modest adjustment is all you need. We don't need every image to look especially dramatic. We can sometimes find the best results with relatively minor adjustments. Once I've found the settings for brightness and contrast that I'm happy with, I'll simply click OK to apply the change to the image.
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