Adjusting Contrast with the Levels Tool

Contrast is essential to a stunning photograph. Without contrast, a photograph will lack visual excitement to pull the viewer into the photograph. There are three common methods to adjust contrast: contrast sliders, levels, and curves. While curves is more powerful of a method than the levels tool, the levels tools is typically easy to use and is the method that I personally prefer. First, open your photograph in your editor of choice. Many less technical programs lack the levels tool, so you'll need to find a program the does have it. I would suggest GIMP. Next, open the levels dialogue (most photo editors have a help file which will help you locate this). In GIMP, it is in the menu under Colors>Levels. Levels WindowFirst, we'll move the farthest to the left slider. Move it until too much of the shadows are blacked out. Then, move it slightly further left. This is the black slider. This adjusts how black the darker colored tones are in the photograph. Next we'll move the farthest to the right slider. This does the same thing for the lighter colored tones. Move it until the highlights are close to whiting out, but not quite. Then, use the middle slider to correct the overall exposure of the image, not just the shadows or highlights. GIMPGood, now double check your image, and make sure you have the colors as extreme as they can go and still look nice - contrast can make or break an image's visual impact. Just a warning: If you use a non-destructive editor, you can adjust levels as often as you want. However, if you're editing a JPEG file with an editor that just saves over the actual original file (instead of saving an additional file with the adjustments), repeated editing can severely reduce the image quality, so be careful. The Original Photograph: Original Photograph The Levels Adjusted Image: Notice how much more you can visually feel the texture and how the colors grasp your attention. The difference would be even greater if viewed fullscreen or printed at a large size.

Levels Adjusted Photograph

 

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