SnapSeed is a great little iOS photo editing app. Along with brightness and contrast, it has the ability to alter "ambiance" which does a great job of lightening up shadows while still keeping a nice deep black.

Does anyone know the best way to achieve this using Photoshop? Would it be through the use of curves? Or perhaps adjusting the contrast of just mid-tones or something?

Using my motorbike as an example. Before...

enter image description here

and After...

enter image description here

(You can open the images in separate tabs and switch between them for a better comparison.)

Notice how the shadows in the top-left are a bit brighter, colours are perhaps slightly warmer, but black is still black and highlights are not blown out.


3 Answers 3


Lightroom is probably more suited to editing the image the way you describe but you can certainly do it in Photoshop by using curves or more simply by level adjustments. However, I expect the equivalent you're searching for in Photoshop is Shadow/highlight adjustments.

Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights...

Adjust Shadows

Then warm the image up a little by changing the color balance of applying a warming filter.

You might also like to try:

  • HDR in Photoshop: Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning (HDR, even on a single exposure, can bring out the shadows and increase tonal contrast)
  • Level adjustments: Image > Adjustments > Levels (or use a levels adjustment layer) and pull the midtones (center slider) a little to the left
  • How would you this in Lightroom then? I tried multiple times, but I always end by having too much contrast, too bright images, ... I cannot figure out what I should play with to have fastly the same kind of results
    – J4N
    Mar 16, 2018 at 12:38

You can make a flattened version of the image in Camera Raw. Simply open it as Camera Raw, add fill light, reduce noise, recover highlight clipping etc... The result is very different than with the curves tool or Highlight/Midtones/Shadows adjusting (which is actually the same as Curves, but limited). Fill Light is spatially frequency dependent, it saves local contrasts, curves do not.

enter image description here

The processed version is too flat for the bike. Layer the original and the processed versions. With gradient layer mask lift up the original bike:

enter image description here


HDR toning in photoshop does a good job. you can adjust shadows, details, colors and more in custom setting, or use photoshop presets already available, like monochrome high contrast, etc.

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