Exercise 2.11 – Split Contrast – Part 2

The brief for the exercise is at the bottom of this post.

Having tried my prefered Lightroom technique for part one, I have now followed the instructions for the Photoshop process, which is outlined in the brief below. Photoshop and layers are something that I find quite technical and complex, so I don’t make as much use of it as I could do. I tend to use it to tidy up photos that I have developed in Lightroom, such as using the clone, heal, brightness and contrast tweaks.

This development process felt very awkward, and why on earth does the brief ask us to create a black and white layer? Yes this is good if you intend to keep your photo black and white, but when keeping an image colour then the black and white layer hides the damage that you are doing to your colours. My first attempt was with the black and white layer, the second is without, next comes the “without” alongside the photo that I developed in Lightroom, and my final image is where I have cloned and combined image.

Exercise 2.11 Split Contrast I tried to follow the instructions as to the layer mask and using the black and white brushes, but I wasnt successful. I didn’t mask out the buildings on the layer that I darkened, and I overused the dodge and burn tools in the sky. Once finished I removed the black and white layer. So not nice Richard. Please try harder!

Exercise 2.11 Split Contrast For this attempt I did not use the black and white layer, and developed the photo in colour. Instead of using curves adjustment layers to darken and lighten, I used levels. I find the curves a whole lot easier in Lightroom, and Levels in Photoshop. Am I weird or what? I was much better with the layer mask along with the hide and reveal brushes. Not perfect but I do find the sky quite appealing, if a touch blue.

Do I have a preference between the first photo (Photoshop) and the second (Lightroom)? I prefer the sky from Photoshop and the foreground from Lightroom.

Here is the final photo in which I have cloned the sky from Photoshop into the foreground of Lightroom.



Brief: Split contrast is another darkroom technique that’s much easier to achieve in the digital domain. Use it to add drama to your pictures or to correct problems in exposure, for example an over-exposed sky over a correctly exposed landscape. You’ll need a good image editing program like Photoshop to do advanced work like this because it involves using layers. Choose a photo to work on that has a bright sky like the image below. Make the photo black and white, as this emphasises the tonal differences in the image. If you use a Black & White Adjustment Layer, you can delete it later to return the image to colour. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer and increase the contrast, making the dark tones darker and the highlights brighter – as you learned in Part One. Rename this Layer ‘High Contrast’. Select the Layer Mask and use the Brush tool to paint black paint (black subtracts your change in contrast from the image). You can also lower the opacity of the brush to paint shades of grey that will let some of the contrast through the mask. Add another Curves Adjustment Layer and make the image darker. Also change the Blending Mode of the layer to Multiply. Select the Layer Mask and paint black paint everywhere you want to not be affected by this darkening layer. In the image opposite, it’s almost all the image but the sky and the figure. Note here that the area on the horizon has not been affected by the increases of contrast or darkening. In other words, the picture retains its contrast in some parts but it’s increased in others. You could use this to make one part of the image high contrast and the other low contrast. This could help with a photograph that includes, for example, both an interior scene lit by diffused artificial light as well as an exterior lit by strong sunlight. The Dodging & Burning Layer (this is a non-destructive way to dodge and burn): Create a new layer, then choose Edit> Fill> and choose 50% Grey. Change the layer blending mode to Overlay. Change the brush opacity to 20% or less. Now use both black and white paint on this layer to dodge and burn, brighten and darken the image. If you want, delete the Black & White adjustment layer to return the photo to colour. You can only master techniques like these through practice; use some of your old photographs as practice material.

6 Replies to “Exercise 2.11 – Split Contrast – Part 2”

  1. I agree with you. I’m not looking forward to having to tackle Photoshop. The sky in your LR shot is really interesting – lots of texture there and I like the way the orange roofs stand out in your final version. Good complementary colour against the sky. Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

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