Saturday, May 25, 2019

How to Manage a High Contrast Situation in Photoshop

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Photo Technique, Photoshop



Almost every picture needs some kind of improvement in Photoshop. Find the ideal lighting and exposure settings is almost impossible.

You can of course use a tripod and take several shots of the same image using different aperture settings, and then make a “sandwich” in Photoshop or any other software to mask them together and construct a perfect image.

But you can not always do this, it takes a lot of time and practice and a good knowledge to obtain good results. But many times this is impossible, if the subject is moving or you do not have a tripod, or if this is one of those unique moments… you just have one image to work with.

You could use the curves or the levels to correct the image to a certain point, but you might still want to bring some light in the dark areas or to bring a little bit down the highlights. You could use the dodge and burn tools over the image, but this is a very dangerous approach. If you do not like the final result, or even if you like it, it is quite possible that in a few months or years you are going to regret it.


Using an adjusting layer is the better option right now. With the ever changing technology, it is possible than in a few years, we could manage this in a very different way.

To do this, you must fix any other problem you might have in your image first. You must correct any color casting, clean any spots, retouch whatever you might need. Then you go to the menu and press Layer> New Layer.


You get a window where you might want to give a name to the layer, but it is not necessary if you do not want to.


Then you go to Mode, and look for “Overlay” in the pop up menu, and then activate the option: “Fill the overlay neutral color (50% gray)”.

This last step in not necessary, but it is a great help to do it, because it allows you to see in the thumbnail or in the actual layer if you want to make it visible, the work that you are performing.


Now you need to set up your default colors black and white by pressing the “D” in your keyboard.

Choose a soft brush with zero hardness and very low opacity, between 10 and 25%. It is very important to start very low and increase the density by “painting” several times. Use the black to increase the shadows, and the white to open them up.


This technique is very useful and I use it very often in my images. It allows me to get changes even in very small areas of my pictures, and I can get a complete control over the final results by adjusting the layers opacity.

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