Low contrast filter for Lightroom

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  • Updated 5 years ago
Hi, please add a low contrast filter (diffuse) to Lightroom adjustments. This is very handy for softening high contrast images. The diffusion created by negative clarity settings is different and cannot really be used for contrast control.
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jussi rovanperä

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Posted 5 years ago

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Eric Chan, Camera Raw Engineer

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Can you show us a before/after example of the effect you're looking for?
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Rikk Flohr, Champion

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Can what you want not be accomplished with Negative Contrast and Added Shadow slider?
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jussi rovanperä

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This is the simplest diffuse technique in PS that I know of:
The image layer was duplicated, the duplicate layer was blurred and the opacity of the blurred layer was dropped to 30%. contrast adjustment layer was added to top of those layers.
The non diffused version just has the blurred layer disabled.

Some Lightroom plug-ins like the Tiffen DFX (based on their real filters) and Magic Bullet Photolooks have a bunch of diffusion options.

Rikk, you can see from the example that this is quite different.
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Chris Cox

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duplicate the layer, blur the upper copy, set the blend mode to lighten (or similar blend modes) and turn down the opacity to suit your taste.
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jussi rovanperä

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Okay, that works too! Thanks!
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Chris Cox

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That's basically duplicating the old mechanical soft-focus effect (done with gauze or grease on a lens).
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Rikk Flohr, Champion

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Without seeing an original, it is hard to say.
What you are showing me here isn't true diffusion.
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jussi rovanperä

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Hi Rikk, Sorry but I don't get it. What is true diffusion, and how is it different?
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Rikk Flohr, Champion

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Diffusion: The action of spreading the light from a light source evenly so as to reduce glare and harsh shadows.

Rob's suggestions to -Highlights and Plus Shadows is definitely on the right track to doing this in Lightroom.
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jussi rovanperä

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Okay, so you're talking about a more diffused light at the scene? What I meant with low contrast filter was simulating a Tiffen Pro Mist or a similar glass filter placed in front of a lens. I'm using it more for a certain look. bringing down contrast and adding clarity, or using the shadows/highlights will bring back tones from the shadows and highlights, but it's a quite different look.
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Rob Cole

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There is a limit to what kinds of "special effects" can be created in Lightroom. You may be forever needing an external editor like Photoshop for specialized "looks". That said, the look as posted seems doable in Lightroom - I could be wrong. If you post the raw (or original jpeg), along with your preferred look (preferrably in a file having the same resolution (dimensions I mean), since Lr can't normalize size for comparison purposes, yet), maybe somebody can better advise. My present guess is that you need to use +blacks instead of +shadows, since you want to lighten the bottom end without creating excessive intra-shadow contrast, but it's hard to be sure without having the files.
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jussi rovanperä

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You need a blur to get the same effect. negative clarity works nicely for blooming the highlights in a similar way, but you can't use it for the whole image as it is made for skin correction and does weird things to certain tones., so it needs to be brushed in...
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Rob Cole

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Not to freeze-dry your idea, but assuming it will take a while for a more turn-key contrast-reduction filter in Lightroom, consider, if you really don't want to lose midtone contrast / general contrastiness, try:

+whites (-exposure) -highlights +shadows (-blacks)

And don't decrease contrast, or if you do need to also decrease global contrast, add some back strategically using a brush. And if +shadows makes things a little glow-y/halo-y/over-stratified in some places, knock it back down with a brush.

Also note: if you do need to use some -contrast to accomplish your goal, supplement with some +clarity. Also, consider +blacks +clarity: great combo. And if worst comes to worst (or you like the softer top end), consider -whites.

Note: If you opt for a lot of +blacks (instead of or along with +shadows), you may need to re-seat blacks by moving black-point in using point curve.

~R.
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jussi rovanperä

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Hehe, my default setting is -50 contrast +25 blacks, back in pv2010 it was 0 contrast and 0 brightness. I like to start with a very flat image.

To me -hightlights +shadows look like -contrast +clarity applied to a certain tone range. It also looks like shadows/highlights are applied prior to exposure in the processing pipeline. Or Adobe has some clever adaptive processing going on like they claim :)
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Rob Cole

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You're right about highlights and shadows sliders: they also employ "clarity-like" processing. Thus, it's easy to create vivid punchy photos with lots of intra-shadow contrast, for example. Granted, less easy to create low-contrast photos with lighter shadows that *don't* have excessive intra-shadow contrast (and a new-fangled Topaz-adjust / Lr clarity kinda look), and yet aren't hazy/anemic looking. This was a common criticism of PV2012 when it first came out.

That said, you can crank blacks all the way to +100 and leave +shadows at smaller values, even 0, or negative, and then use the point curve to normalize tone. - that's the way to create a more natural / old-school photography low-contrast look.

Similar techniques can be used to deal with top end...

Post files if you want (the potential for) better advice about Lightroom techniques. If you just want Adobe to hear your plea - mission accomplished...