There are some stock images I'd like to use that have low-contrast effects applied to them and I need to make them look more like there haven't been arty filters applied. (I'm not even sure if that's the best description for the effect I'm trying to undo, I've also seen it described as a milky black.) I've tried using curves, or duplicating the layer and setting it to overlay, but none of these things really seems to look quite right. I think what I want to do is create shadows that don't blend with the dark midtones. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

low contrast stock photo

  • 1
    This is really 80% photography and only minor post processing. Lighting in the actual photo makes a world of difference.
    – Scott
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 20:53
  • It's really hard for me to help you without knowing what you're trying to do. Could you edit your post to include one of your best attempts, explain what you did, and why its not what you're hoping to achieve?
    – Ryan
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 21:59
  • It looks like a digital painting to me. It might not contain the information you need to create the image you want.
    – Wolff
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 13:59
  • Have you tried Image > Auto Tone?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 12:42

3 Answers 3


Similar to AndrewH's answer, something like a levels adjustment layer could help:

quick image example - layer adjustment

but you'll only be able to do so much. Seems like what you really need is different source material.


You can use an Exposure Adjustment layer. Change the Offset to around -.01. You can also set the exposure layer blending mode to luminosity.

Moving the offset slider to the left darkens shadows. If you moved the slider to the right then the shadows become lighter and if done too much can give a washed out look.


There is one more thing you could try... Duplicate the layer(ctrl J) and go to: filter>>other>>high pass to this new layer. Set the value to 4,0 pixel. Set the layer mode to overlay. Play with the Opacity. And ta-dammm... A picture with more contrast. Bye. enter image description here

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