Add A Little "POP" With Mid Tone Contrast

One of the best tips for adjusting images is to boost the midtone contrast. Many people make their contrast adjustments in lightroom , a global adjustment affecting the entire tonal range. In my view I think this  often leads to an image that looks harsh and may have blocked shadows and blown highlights. It is much better to accentuate the mid-tone contrast to make an image pop. 


What is micro-contrast?

Most of us are familiar with contrast; it is relatively straightforward and easy to see.  I would describe Micro-contrast as the contrast in the small details within your image, all the way down to pixel level. I don't believe that adjusting your images globally is not the best way to achieve the results we would all like.  By actually selecting the tonal values first and making adjustments to these specific areas is a much better and more controlled way to approach your editing. 

Here is a quick trick I learnt for adjusting midtone contrast without creating any side effects like halos or crunched up blacks and blown out whites.  Create an action for it and it becomes a  one click wonder. 


In the dialog boxes set values of 50 , 50 and 0

Take your image and create a duplicate layer (ctrl +J) Then go to filter-sharpen-unsharp mask. In the dialog boxes set values of 50 , 50 and 0 and click ok.

Next open the channels window which can be found under view- channels. Hold down the ctrl key and click on the top chanel thumbnail labeled RGB. 

Screenshot - 9_06_2018 , 1_36_47 PM.png

CTRL and Right click to make selection

This will create a selection based on everything being 50% grey or lighter. We actually want 50% grey and darker, so we need an inverse selection. If you hold CTRL + SHIFT + I  this will create the inverted selection. Now make sure the top duplicated layer is selected and press the  create mask button  on the layers pallet.

Screenshot - 9_06_2018 , 2_36_15 PM_ver001.png

Click the add layer mask button on the layers pallet to add a mask to your selected layer

Hey presto, you have now added some nice contrast to the midtones only. Great for bringing out detail without blocking up your blacks. It's only subtle but thats what most editing should be anyway. 


If that's not enough for you and you want a bit more, duplicate that layer again. You can also group the layers or just the single, which will then let you mask off the areas you don't want effected giving ultimate control. Have fun and let me know what you think.