Lightroom - How To Maximize Tonal Range

Getting the right tonal balance is one of the most important edits you do in Lightroom. Maximizing the contrast gives your image punch, as you have the best balance between all of the tones in the histogram. Working in the Basic Panel of the Development Module:

Step 1: Set the Highlights slider to -100

Step 2: Set the Shadows slider to +100

Step 3: Hold and press the Option Key on a MAC (ALT on Windows), whilst you are moving the Blacks slider. What this does is temporarily replace your image with a white mask. You then move the Blacks slider until you just see black pixels peeking through the mask. In fact, I generally adjust the blacks so that there is about 5-10% black in the mask. You then release the slider, and your Black Balance is now set.

Step 4: Hold and press the Option Key on a MAC (ALT on Windows), whilst you are moving the Whites slider. This is similar, but you see a temporary black mask. You then move the Whites slider until you just see white pixels peeking through the mask. Then just dial that back very slightly so you can't see any pixels peeking through the mask. This avoids pure white blown-out areas in your image. You then release the slider, and your White Balance is now set.

Step 5: Now go back to your Highlights and lift the highlight tones, but without making them too bright.

Step 6: Do the opposite with the Shadows slider, and reduce the shadows, but try not to make them too dark.

Step 7: If your image is either too dark or too bright, then adjust the Exposure to lift or reduce the mid-tones.

Step 8: If your image has either too much contrast or too little, then respectively reduce or increase the contrast.

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