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Boosting Contrast in Lightroom with the Tone Curve Tool

Some tips for boosting contrast in Lightroom with the Tone Curve Tool.
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Many of the pictures you snap will require subtle corrections to improve fundamental aspects of a good photo, such as the contrast. Luckily for you, the Lightroom Tone Curve Tool helps you do this very easily and quickly.

When you boost the contrast, your images will look more dramatic, yet a softness can still be retained, if you do it right.

Let’s look at the steps involved.

Step 1: White Balance

Adjust your image, so that it gets cooler. Move your temperature down toward blue while adjusting the tint up toward pink.


Click on the Develop navigation tab on the menu, and adjust the dual sliders accordingly.

Step 2: Manipulating the Contrast

The first thing relating to contrast is to boost the highlights by approximately +35. What’s going to happen is that the brighter portion of the image will get brighter still.

The shadows should be adjusted down by -75, which darkens the portion of the image that’s already a bit dark.

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Whites should be boosted by about +30, which will cause more detailed brightening of the already white parts of the photo.

Finally, the blacks should be decreased by approximately -80 to achieve a more detailed darkening of the darker colors in the picture.

Step 3: Enter the Tone Curve Tool

Now’s what you’ve been waiting for: using the Tone Curve Tool to soften the resulting harshness from the above adjustments and make your picture gorgeous.

There are four tonal ranges: darks, shadows, lights and highlights.

The darks are on the bottom half of the tone curve while the lights are on the top half. Shadows are on the left side, and lights are on the right side.

Your goal is to manipulate the tone curve to make the picture softer, but still dramatic.

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Start by clicking the small box on the bottom-right of the tone curve. This will turn it into a point curve. This means you’re now able to click anywhere on the curve to position a point and then shift that point around.

Therefore, if you drag your curve up, it’ll make the lights in the image lighter; drag the curve down, and it’ll make the darks in your image that much darker.

After you complete your adjustments to soften your image and are happy with it, be sure to click on the little box at the bottom-right once more to stop your editing process.

Experimentation Makes Perfect!

As you can see, the Tone Curve Tool is very easy to use, and how soft you want your image is just a matter of preference. Because of the open-ended way of using this tool, we recommend that you experiment with the tool as much as you want to get just the perfect combo of more contrast/harshness with the amount of softness to your liking.

See the rest of our Lightroom articles here.

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