This Master Printing Class is about managing photos with low contrast. It’s an important topic because creating the right amount of contrast is an image is always a key task. The two factors to consider are contrast and perceived detail smoothness.
Why do I mention contrast and detail together? Have a look at Figures 1 and 2. Some will say that Figure 1 has less detail than Figure 2. Actually, they have the same level of detail (Figure 2 is just a lower-contrast version of the first image), but in Figure 1 less detail is perceived by a human observer. This example should demonstrate that more contrast translates into more visible detail.
So why not crank the contrast up as much as possible? First, the maximum contrast that can be created is defined by the output medium. For photo- graphic prints, this can range from 1:50 (matte papers) to 1:250 (some glossy papers). The second and even more important limit is the loss in smoothness that occurs if the contrast gets too harsh. A high-contrast image of fog is a contradiction. If the maximum contrast range is limited by the output medium, then the shadows, midtones, and high- lights actually compete for their parts of the contrast range.