Frequently Asked Questions


How is ContrastMaster different from contrast adjustment tools in Photoshop or other applications?

ContrastMaster offers three special contrast adjustment methods (called Dynamic, Adaptive and Local Contrast) which are not available in Photoshop and other applications. These can still effectively emphasize contrast in image details when other conventional contrast tools fails. Furthermore, ContrastMaster offers all contrast adjustment methods in one dialog. So you can quickly and easily adjust contrast without switching back and forth between various dialogs as you need to do in Photoshop and other applications. ContrastMaster also offer some masking options for selectively applying contrast, e.g. to shadows, highlights or areas with certain colors.


I am already doing local contrast adjustments with the Unsharp Mask tool. Why should I use ContrastMaster?

ContrastMaster offers three methods for adjusting local contrast. These methods are more effective and offer more control over the effect than the Unsharp Mask tool. So you will achieve much better results with ContrastMaster. Please get the demo version of ContrastMaster and see yourself.


Can I create HDR images with ContrastMaster?

ContrastMaster is not a HDR tool, because it does not let you combine multiple images of the same scene into one. But as the product description states, it lets you create HDR-like effects. Many HDR tools need to compress the contrast range of a HDR image into the lower range of a screen or print. To achieve that they often increase the contrast of individual image areas while greatly reducing the contrast in other less important and flat image areas. ContrastMaster does something similar with non-HDR images. It expands the contrast range in some image areas, which makes many details better visible. So images processed with ContrastMaster may appear as if they were HDR images.


After I apply ContrastMaster on a portrait photo, the person looks much older. What can I do about it?

You often get an nice effect if you apply ContrastMaster on the portrait of a man or old person. ContrastMaster can emphasize masculinity or old age, which may make the person look more interesting. ContrastMaster can also produce nice effect on smooth skin, e.g. the skin of children or older people with a lot of make-up. However, it is not recommended to increase the contrast of skin area in portraits of young persons or woman without much make-up, otherwise skin imperfection will show more clearly. So you need to selectively apply the ContrastMaster effect to these portrait photos.

ContrastMaster offers a Mask tab sheet with a color option that lets you remove the effect from skin areas. You just need to use the color picker tool to select the skin color and move the appropriate slider until the contrast adjustments is removed from the skin areas. For even more control you can also create a selection or layer mask in your image editing application for selectively applying the ContrastMaster effect. If you do extensive portrait retouching, you will also need such a facial mask for other retouching task. Alternatively you can also set the Mix combo boxes in Novice or Expert Mode to "Edges". This will keep flat skin areas from being contrast adjusted.

Some of my photos contain a white background or a cloudless sky. ContrastMaster adds too much contrast to these areas whereas the rest of the image looks just fine. What can I do?

Basically this is the same question as the above question about portrait photos. By default ContrastMaster tries to improve contrast even in areas that have no texture and very little contrast. As a result these areas may look unnatural afterwards. You could apply a weaker effect or use very high Radius or very small Detail slider values, but usually that is no option, because it reduces the contrast in textured areas even more. One workaround is to set the Mix combo boxes in Novice or Expert Mode to "Edges". This will avoid that the contrast effect is applied to uniform areas like a wall or the sky. Another options is to use the controls on ContrastMaster's Mask tab sheet to selectively remove the effect. You could also create a selection or layer mask in your image application if nothing else helps.


ContrastMaster sometimes brings out the noise in my photos. How can I avoid that?

As ContrastMaster lets you boost the contrast in a photo to a high extent, it can make imperfections in bad quality photos more clearly. You can try to avoid that by applying a less intense ContrastMaster effect to such photos, removing the effect in shadows with the Shadows slider on the Mask tab sheet in ContrastMaster or sizing down photos before you apply ContrastMaster. Often it helps a lot to apply noise reduction to the image before or after you apply ContrastMaster. Using JPEG artifact removal before running ContrastMaster will also help a lot with highly compressed photos. However, it would be the best if you try to get the best image quality from your camera or scanner in the first place.


ContrastMaster increases the color cast and vignetting in some of my images. Why?

Low contrast photos usually do not exhibit noise, artifacts, color casts or lens vignetting. But when adjusting the contrast these imperfections become quite visible. As ContrastMaster can improve the contrast quite dramatically, there is also a good chance that it will make these things more visible. If you do not want to live with lower contrast images, you should remove noise, artifacts, color casts and lens vignetting before running ContrastMaster. You can also do it after running ContrastMaster, but doing it before lets you easier judge the effect in ContrastMaster. Another alternative is to improve the quality of your photos, e.g. by using a DSLR camera, avoiding a high ISO setting and shooting RAW (in case JPG artifacts are a problem).


Why does ContrastMaster not effectively work on silhouette photos?

ContrastMaster is not meant to be used with photos with extreme contrasts that have one area totally black and the rest of the photo extremely bright. If you want to remove the shadows from such photos, you better use a shadow/highlight tool like our LightMachine plugin. After your brightened up the photo you can use ContrastMaster with more success. If the contrasts are not that extreme in the photo, the Brighten slider in ContrastMaster may already produce the desired result. If you do not want to lift the shadows in the photo, you can also switch to Global Contrast mode in ContrastMaster for applying some tonal tweaks.


Sometimes ContrastMaster renders a bit slow after pressing OK. What can I do about it?

The slow down is usually caused by the Adaptive Contrast effect. Although it renders relatively fast on images below 1 Megapixel (like the preview image), it can take up to several minutes to process a 10 Megapixel image on an old single core processor. If you use a dual or quad core processor, the rendering will be up to two or four times faster. You can dramatically increase (up to eight times) the rendering of the Adaptive Contrast effect by activating the Speedup check box on the Adaptive tab sheet. However, the effect will then look a bit different. Sometimes it will look better, but other times you may want to keep the Speedup check box deactivated and accept the longer rendering time.


Why does the final result of ContrastMaster sometimes look a bit different from the preview?

The preview of ContrastMaster may not display the final result 100% accurately sometimes. That is usually the case with larger images and smaller Radius values. That is because the preview usually only contains 0.2 to 0.5 Megapixel of image data whereas the full image is 10 Megapixel image large. As ContrastMaster works on small image details, the small preview image may not contain enough image details to represent the full image perfectly.

The same problem occurs even graver for all sharpen and noise/grain filters, which work on an even smaller detail level. For these filters you usually switch to a 100% preview zoom and scroll around to view the effect accurately. You can do the same with ContrastMaster. Additionally you can improve the preview accuracy by enlarging the ContrastMaster window and thus the preview. On the other hand the final result often looks even better than the preview, so it may also mean a positive surprise rather than a problem.