How To Avoid Making Viewers Squint At Your Images To See Their Highlights

Highlights are crucial to most images, with a few notable exceptions. If highlights are too dull, the whole image feels flat and suppressed. So, many people try to make them as bright as possible without losing detail. (This is a classic practice that’s part of a style, but some photographers prefer even fuller highlights. Edward Weston and Minor White were two such photographers.) In an attempt to make their images glow more, some people go so far as to make images overly bright, washing out midtone contrast, saturation, and clipping highlights, removing detail at the very top of the tonal scale and producing flat white areas. This is a graphic style more than a photographic style – or at best lo-fi rather than hi-fi solution that often requires additional compromises to image quality to feel convincing. Plus, it renders the frame no longer rectangular.


Don't take ETTR to an extreme.


Do make your exposures light without clipping.


Process your files darker.


If you've got clipping in both shadows and highlights, use HDR bracketing.

Exposure

Good highlight detail starts with exposure. Get it. You have to have it to optimize it. This is one of the two reasons to monitor your histograms during exposure; the other is shadow detail. As long as you don’t “hit the wall” on the right-hand side of the histogram, your file will be fine. Remember, the histogram on your camera is based on the JPEG your camera would produce, while the as yet unrendered Raw file has even more data in the highlights. Don’t take ETTR (expose to the right) to an extreme. At some point, data will be clipped, and just before the point data starts to clip, it will start to lose gradation and shift in color.


Basic Panel


Parametric Curve and Point Curve

Processing

You’ll get more contrast by having something to contrast with; in this case, highlights contrast with shadows. Set them first. The darker shadows are, the more contrast you’ll get. (Losing shadow detail is avoided in a classic style but may be done intentionally for more graphic, gothic, or grunge styles.) Similarly, if you weigh midtones lower, highlights will appear brighter. Every range of tones (shadows, midtones, and highlights) can have its own kind of contrast. To produce more separation in highlights, focus on setting the point where they transition into midtones as low as possible without making the image look too dark. What’s too dark? Subjective. Trust your gut and do it your way.


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One Simple Way To Make Photoshop’s Go To Filter High Pass Even More Useful

Indispensable, Photoshop’s High Pass filtration offers contrast and detail enhancement effects no other tool does. Some tools get close, but they’re not the same. 

(Read Curves, Clarity, Dehaze, High Pass, Texture and Sharpening Compared.)

High Pass filtration slip streams between detail enhancement or sharpening (at a low setting) and luminosity contrast adjustment (at a high setting). The two are intimately tied to one another and the difference is really just the granularity that the contrast is applied with. At a low setting High Pass filtration accentuates contrast along contours with a thin feathered line, while the flat gray areas surrounding contours on the high pass layer tend not to accentuation texture or noise. At a high setting High Pass filtration creates stronger contrast so broadly feathered that it creates a localized vignetting effect, accentuating the illusion of volume in the process.

(Read more here on How To Apply High Pass Filtration.)

The intensity of either or both of these high pass effects can be accentuated by adding more contrast to the high pass layer with Curves. Unlike raising the High Pass filter slider while you apply it, which increases the width of the lines on it, increasing the contrast of the layer with Curves does not; it simply makes the lines darker and the haloes brighter.

Take these steps ...


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6 Ways To Get Better Shadow & Highlight Detail In Your Photographs

You want your photographs to glow - right? So what’s better than one kind of glow? How about three?

You can get there by not succumbing to the classic temptations to clip shadows and/or highlights to produce a more obviously dramatic but a less lively, nuanced, and expressive tonal scale. Instead, hold the full dynamic range with a real black and white and also create gorgeous separation in the values nearest to them.

So many times we give the lion’s share of the contrast to the midtones. Midtone contrast is really important. But that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the light in highlights by making them too hot to look at comfortably or in shadows making them so dark they turn to murky mud. You can hold separation in these extreme ends of the tonal scale and produce beautiful qualities of light that complement not just contrast. Here’s how.


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Use HDR Techniques To Get The Best Image Detail

Download your free copy now!

 

Use high dynamic range techniques to capture detail in highlights and shadows even in scenes with extreme contrast.

 

Why Everybody Needs HDR … Sometimes | Coming Soon

What In The World Is HDR ?

What Is Exposure Value ?

Using Histograms – ETTR

Why Your Camera’s Auto HDR Feature Is Inferior 

How To Set Your Camera To Auto Bracketing 

How Many Exposures Do You Need For HDR Merges ? 

Making HDR Merges Is A Four Step Process

5 Photoshop Tools To Make The Most of Shadows & Highlights Without HDR

3 Ways HDR Software Can Benefit Single Exposures | Coming Soon

Using HDR Software To Sharpen Photographs

HDR With One Exposure

HDR With Two Exposures

HDR with Lightroom | Coming Soon

HDR With Photoshop | Coming Soon

HDR Panoramas | Coming Soon

Refine HDR With Photoshop Layer Blending | Coming Soon

7 HDR Artifacts & How To Avoid Or Cure Them 

8 HDR Myths Debunked 

Quick Answers To The 5 Most Asked HDR Questions 

 

Enhancing Local Contrast In Black & White Images

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After

AntarcticaLIV_before_425

Before

Color to black and white conversions are radical transformations of an image. They establish the tonal foundations of a neutral image, creating tonal relationships by determining which areas of an image become light and which are dark. While this process can generate some localized effects (all blues become darker or lighter), this is quite different than selectively lightening and darkening an image to accentuate existing tonal relationships (only select blue areas become darker or lighter). Selectively enhance a tonal structure after conversion, rather than before. Selective enhancement may yield dramatic results.
Here are two ways.


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Developing Your Sensitivity to Gradation

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The engine that drives color dynamics, contrast, is a measure of the difference between colors. Contrast can be measured by both the amount and kind of difference between colors.

You can discuss contrast in terms of amount. There can be a lot or a little. You can move between two very different colors (i.e. from black to white) or two similar colors (i.e. from dark gray to light gray).

You can discuss contrast in terms of how transitions between colors are made. There can be many (fine) or few (coarse) steps in-between colors. (Having many steps in between contrasting values is an essential criterion for continuous-tone imagery.)

You can discuss contrast in terms of how transitions progress. The steps in between can be made in a regular (even) or irregular (uneven) manner.

If contrast brings variety and energy, ask yourself what kind of energy you seek. Just as each color often elicits a set of associations, so to does each type of contrast.

High contrast images are often thought of as dramatic, while low contrast images are often thought of as quiet. Images, where transitions are made with many steps, are considered smooth, while those with only a few are considered abrupt. When gradations transition evenly they seem calm, graceful, and can be navigated quickly, while when they transition unevenly they seem dynamic, syncopated, and take more time to navigate. There are many subtle distinctions that can be made within these broad generalizations. This is an area that rewards continued exploration.

Sharpen your eye, by developing the ability to identify both the amount and quality of contrast between colors. You’ll find this to be an extremely valuable skill. You’ll increase your sensitivity to color, expand the range of color choices available to you, and add strategies for meeting color challenges. Color will become more intense and pleasurable for you.

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Luminosity intervals of one hue. Hues achieve maximum saturation at specific luminosities.

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Saturation intervals of one hue – luminosity and hue stable. Achievable only for mid-level luminosities.

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Hue intervals – maximum saturation, luminosity shifts. Hues achieve maximum saturation at different luminosities.

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Hue intervals – luminosity stable, saturation shifts.

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Hue intervals between two complementary hues passing through the color wheel.

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Hue intervals between two complementary hues passing around the color wheel.

gradation_exercise

Try These Exercises.
1            Create a set of equal luminosity intervals of one hue.
Optionally, repeat for all hues – ROYGBIV.

2            As above, create equal intervals of hue.
Optionally, repeat for all hues – ROYGBIV.
Optionally, repeat for all hues at different luminosity levels.

3            As above, create equal intervals of saturation.
Optionally, repeat for all hues – ROYGBIV.
Optionally, repeat for all hues at different luminosity levels.

4            Match the intervals (luminosity, hue, and saturation) between two color progressions.

Because it’s difficult to separate other forms of image content from color, color exercises are best performed abstractly. While it’s useful to check numerical values for colors and color relationships, because these exercises are perceptual (often incorporating physiological and psychological responses that are not physically measurable), determine your answers visually. Train and trust your eye.

Read more Color Theory.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.