Changing the contrast on a photo is probably the oldest and most basic of edits that most of us have likely tried in the past. The most important aspect of this however, is that changing the contrast also affects the brightness, saturation, and sharpness of your image, often with unwanted results. Here we will look at how changing just one parameter will affect the other three and what each one does.
Contrast – Contrast simply refers to the difference between the brightest and darkest portions of your photo. So, increasing the contrast will make the difference between bright and dark greater which in turn results in making highlights brighter and shadows darker. In most cases however, increasing contrast will typically make your image ‘pop’ and more vibrant while decreasing it will usually produce a duller image.
Sharpness – Sharpness refers to increasing or decreasing the contrast (or sharpness) along edges in your photo that have fine detail. It is wise to use this sparingly and perhaps experiment a little as when this is done it can also change the saturation, contrast, and brightness.
Brightness – Changing the brightness of a photo is typically the most common edit carried out. It’s important to remember that increasing or decreasing brightness of the whole image also alters the mid-tones within your photo. If you want to change just the mid-tones, you will need to adjust what is known as Gamma (mid-tones).
Saturation/Hue – While similar to contrast, rather than increasing or decreasing the difference between highlights and shadows, we are actually changing the separation between the colours of the photo. When you adjust the ‘slider’ to change the hue or saturation the result can be a photo of an entirely different colour.
Although Adobe Photo Elements has some very basic features that are easy to use it really is geared towards more experienced photo editors, the interface and extensive feature set can be a bit daunting for some. So, we recommend you try InPixio Photo Editor, an easy to use yet powerful enough photo editing software to start working on your images. It is available for Windows users with not only the basic photo editing features but also some advanced tools and amazing photo effects. Download and try it now.
NoNow that we understand what each of these levels does and how they differ from each other lets walk through the steps to adjust contrast and brightness in Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Adjust Contrast & Brightness in Adobe Photoshop Elements
- Open the photo you would like to adjust and ensure you are in the “Expert” window.
- In the main menu select “Enhance”.
- Go to “Adjust Lighting”
- Select “Brightness & Contrast”.
- Adjust the sliders as seen below to your liking.
The most common way of adjusting contrast, brightness, saturation and other effects is to use the built in “Guided Mode” instead of the “Expert” mode. The Guided Mode acts as a wizard that includes preset or predefined edits that can be applied to your photos. They also include example images that show the desired effect when you move your mouse over it.
Change Contrast and Color By Adjusting Levels
To alter the contrast and colors of a photo in Adobe Photoshop Elements many use the “Level Adjustment” dialog box to apply an adjustment layer to the photo. You can then save this adjustment layer and fine tune the visual settings by manipulating the Histogram. To do this simply follow the below steps:
Step 1: Select the Levels option in the Guided panel. This will provide information on how to use the Levels Dialog and what a Histogram is.
Step 2: Click “Create Levels Adjustment Layer” button.
Step 3: Label your new Adjustment Layer.
Step 4: The dialog box will now appear allowing you to adjust the sliders. These sliders control the following:
- Shadows – Black Triangle
- Midtones – Grey Triabgle
- Highlights – White Triangle
Step 5: Click “Ok” to save your changes or “Reset” to revert back to the default settings.
Convert Images to Black & White
You may have certain photos that were originally taken in colour but you would like them to be in black and white. You can do this by adjusting the colour ‘slider’ to lighter or darker and then using the contrast ‘slider’ to compensate for the changes you just made.
- From the menu select Enhance > Convert to Black and White.
- You can adjust the color sliders left and right to brighten and darken the various tones. You can then use the Contrast slider to level out the changes in contrast. There is also built-in preset styles accessible from he menu on the left hand side. Click ‘OK’ to save your changes.
Lets learn more about Adobe Photoshop Elements
Below we have gone into detail on some of the more common tools used on images to really make them pop. Feel free to jump to any of the following topics so you can get started right away:
Importing/Exporting Images – Find out the difference between Raster and Vector images, different file formats and how to import/export images into Adobe Photoshop Elements 15.
Adjusting Contrast – This section explains what contrast is all about including Brightness, Sharpness, Saturation/Hue and how they effect your images.
Cropping Images – Learn how to crop photos while maintaining aspect ratios, how to switch from portrait to landscape mode, crop to specific pixel dimensions.
Scaling Photos – Learn about scaling images in Adobe Photoshop Elements and the differences between cropping, resizing and scaling your photos.
Image Filters and Effects – We show you steps to applying filters and image effects in Adobe Photoshop Elements to spice up your photos!