Contrast Control in Lightroom
Learning how to deploy proper contrast control in Lightroom brings with it two major benefits:
- It allows you to reveal more of your camera sensors dynamic range.
- It will allow you to reveal considerably more image detail.
I have posted on this subject before, under the guise of neutralising Lightrooms ‘hidden background adjustments’. But as Lightroom CC 2015 evolves, trying to ‘nail’ the best way of doing something becomes like trying to hit a moving target.
For the last few months I’ve been using this (for me) new method – and to be honest it works like a charm!
It involves the use of the ‘zero’ preset together with a straight process version swap around, as illustrated in the before/after shot above and in the video linked below. This video is best viewed on my YouTube channel:
The process might seem a little tedious at first, but it’s really easy when you get used to it, and it works on ALL images from ALL cameras.
Here is a step-by-step guide to the various Lightroom actions you need to take in order to obtain good contrast control:
Contrast Control Workflow Steps:
1. Develop Module Presets: Choose ZEROED
2. Camera Calibration Panel: Choose CAMERA NEUTRAL
3. Camera Calibration Panel: Choose Process Version 2010
4. Camera Calibration Panel: Choose Process Version 2012
5. Basics Panel: Double Click Exposure (goes from -1 to 0)
6. Basics Panel: Adjust Black Setting to taste if needed.
7. Details Panel: Reset Sharpening to default +25
8. Details Panel: Reset Colour Noise to default +25
9. Lens Corrections Panel: Tick Remove Chromatic Aberration.
Now that you’ve got good contrast control you can set about processing your image – just leave the contrast slider well alone!
Why is contrast control important, and why does it ‘add’ so much to my images Andy?
We are NOT really reducing the contrast of the raw file we captured. We are simply reducing the EXCESSIVE CONTRAST that Lightroom ADDS to our files.
- Lightroom typically ADDS a +33 contrast adjustment but ‘calls it’ ZERO.
- Lightroom typically ADDS a medium contrast tone curve but ‘calls it’ LINEAR.
Both of this are contrast INCREASES, and any increase in contrast can be seen as a ‘compression’ of the tonal space between BLACK and WHITE. This is a dynamic range visualisation killer because it crushes the ends of the midtone range.
It’s also a detail killer, because 99% of the subject detail is in the mid tone range. Typically the Lightroom tonal curve range for midtones is 25% to 75%, but Lightroom is quite happy to accept a midtone range of 10% to 90% – check those midtone arrow adjusters at the bottom edge of the parametric tone curve!
I hope you find this post useful folks, and don’t forget to watch the video at full resolution on my YouTube Channel.