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Adding contrast and detail with tonal adjustments

From: Enhancing a Landscape Photo with Lightroom

Video: Adding contrast and detail with tonal adjustments

Continuing to process our image in the Basic panel, we're going to go to the Tone section where we will be able to control the brightness and contrast in this photo. I'll start at the top of this section with the Exposure slider. The Exposure slider increases or decreases the overall brightness of the photo by shifting primarily the Mid-tones. If I hover over the Exposure slider and you look up the histogram you'll see a slight overlay over the mid-tones, and that means that that's the part of the total range that this slider are primarily affects.

Adding contrast and detail with tonal adjustments

Continuing to process our image in the Basic panel, we're going to go to the Tone section where we will be able to control the brightness and contrast in this photo. I'll start at the top of this section with the Exposure slider. The Exposure slider increases or decreases the overall brightness of the photo by shifting primarily the Mid-tones. If I hover over the Exposure slider and you look up the histogram you'll see a slight overlay over the mid-tones, and that means that that's the part of the total range that this slider are primarily affects.

So I think that this photo looks a tad dark. I'd like to brighten it up a bit. I'm going to move the Exposure slider over to the right. By the way, the numerical values on the Exposure slider correspond to f-stops on your camera. So 0.3 for example is the equivalent of about a third of f-stop in brightness. Next, I'll go to the Contrast slider. What this image needs most is more contrast. I'm going to drag the Contrast slider slightly to the right and doing that has not only brightened the highlights, it's also darkened the shadows a bit.

That increases contrast and adds a bit more punch to the image. If you're familiar with the fundamentals of curves in Photoshop increasing the Contrast slider like this is similar to adding an S-curve. Now that we have our basic exposure and contrast adjustments let's go down to this group of four sliders to fine-tune the contrast. Each of these sliders affects a different range of highlights and shadows in the image. We will start with the Highlight slider. If I move my cursor over this slider and you take a look up at the histogram you can see that the Highlight slider controls the brightness of the three-quarter tone highlight areas.

Now in this case I don't think there's much to do to highlights. Maybe I'll bring my highlights down just a bit to darken up these bright parts of the sky. So I'll drag the Highlight slider slightly over to the left. The Shadows slider is the equivalent on the other side of the histogram. It controls the three-quarter tone dark areas. Bringing the Shadows slider up slightly can bring out detail in dark areas of the photo. For example, in these trees over here. Let's see if it'll help us with this image. So I'll drag the Shadows slider slightly over to the right.

The next slider, the White slider, controls the very brightest tones in the image, the far right side of the histogram. In this case we really don't have any bright tones over there on the far right. So I want to drag the White slider over toward the right. As I drag the White slider I am keeping my eye on the histogram. If I see a spike over here on the right side of the histogram, I know that I've gone too far with this slider. Pushing whites in the image to pure white without detail. And if I turn on a Highlight clipping warning, which is this little box up here, you can see marked in red in the image exactly which pixels I am pushing to pure white.

That's farther than I wanted to go with the slider. I am going to back off going in the other direction and I'll put it just about there and I'll turned off the Highlight clipping warning. The next slider, the Black slider, controls the darkest parts of the photo. Adding a little more black can often make the photo look more rich. Particularly, if you've lightened the shadows, the three-quarter tone dark areas as we did earlier. I am going to take the Black slider and I'm going to drag it toward the left to add more black. That brings us to the end of the Tone section of the basic panel.

Let's compare how this image looked when we started as compared to where it is now. I do this often as I am in processing a photo here in Lightroom and that is to press the backslash (\) key on the keyboard. The backslash (\) key is located in the same row as the P keys, three keys to the right of the P key. So I'll press the backslash (\) key to see the before view of the image without any of the changes that we added to white balance or to tone and here's how the image looks now with just those changes. If you feel that there isn't enough of a change to suit your taste, feel free to go back and tweak some of these sliders.

Maybe you want to add more blacks for a deeper richer look or maybe you want to add more contrast. I'm going for a natural look to this image that reflects what I remember of the scene, but it's perfectly valid to process this image to whatever appearance you like. Keep in mind that we're not done with our global adjustments yet. In the next movie we will go down to the Present section of the Basic panel to add mid-tone contrasts with the Clarity slider and some color saturation to further enhance this photo.

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Enhancing a Landscape Photo with Lightroom

13 video lessons · 6576 viewers

Jan Kabili
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