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How do you go about general contrast control?

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  • How do you go about general contrast control?

    First of all I wish you all a happy new year! There are many techniques for setting the general contrast in your images but which is the most "professional" one? Do you adjust your contrast in your RAW editor before going into photoshop? Or do you like to leave contrast adjustments to the end? What do you use and why? Curves set to Luminosity blend mode? A black to white gradient map set to luminosity?
    I want to standardize my retouching to give all my images the same feel, however I tend to use a different technique each time... Ideally I should find one method for contrast control and stick to it. What are your thoughts?
    Last edited by The Old Man; 01-02-2015, 12:00 PM.

  • #2
    Re: How do you go about general contrast control?

    Personally I use an 's' curve. Contrast is arguably more important than resolution and along with sharpening are the two attributes I save till last.


    • #3
      Re: How do you go about general contrast control?

      The things that you suggest come out of past experiments done by others, but I don't personally care for the results in the majority of cases. The contrast sliders and curves tools in photoshop are very sensitive. As a general (as close to general as I can get) if you start to encounter any weirdness, back off and try a more regional approach. You would be amazed how much the appearance of flatness comes from a lack of separation between elements. Specific shadows are just grey and flat or a background is too close in brightness to the subject. If that's your problem and you try to adjust it via contrast sliders, you're going to encounter a loss of visual continuity and frequently hot spots in your image. The over saturation in portions is just an additional side effect.


      • #4
        Re: How do you go about general contrast control?

        I tend to check an auto contrast adjustment (either in CaptureOne or Photoshop) just as a visual reference what do the (rough) numbers say. So what I usually do is hit a key combo for "all in" auto adjust, go back and forth a few times to notice all the primary global issues I have to correct and then reset and proceed manually.

        Now although it's a silly tool what it usually gets right is what degree should I pump the s-curve to at an initial stage. I do a finishing touch after cleaning up, dodging and all sorts of stuff, but this dead simple workflow helps to get me in a right direction.

        Of course this is solely for contrast and not fixing color cast etc.

        The bottom line is, there is no generic approach to everything as there are shots to clean up and go with a more "generic" look and these which need a particular treatment for a certain grading / contrast associated with a desired look. For the latter, I would push the sliders harder in raw before opening photoshop, but I usually avoid doing too much globally. It is tempting... to fiddle with a few sliders without masking and get "The Look" but it just does not work most of the time. You'll neeed to go with local contrast adjustments. This is because "The Look" does not correspond to light and shade "as shot".
        Last edited by insmac; 01-03-2015, 04:07 AM.


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