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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.


How does ContrastMaster differ from the LightMachine plugin?

As their names suggest LightMachine is meant for brightness and shadow/highlight corrections whereas ContrastMaster is for adjusting the contrast. Although ContrastMaster offers a brightness slider and sometimes automatically brightens up some image areas, LightMachine works more effective on very dark images and offers much more control over the brightness adjustments. LightMachine has some contrast adjustment options, but they are meant for improving the look of brightened shadows or darkened highlights. ContrastMaster offers many more and more effective contrast tools especially for improving the contrast in image details. If you apply ContrastMaster to an image that was adjusted with LightMachine, you can still gain a lot.


Can I create HDR images with ContrastMaster?

ContrastMaster is not a HDR tool, because it does not create a HDR image by combining multiple shots of the same scene. ContrastMaster works on normal photos, but it can also be applied to the output of HDR software to improve these image even more. ContrastMaster is not meant to replace HDR software. One of its purposes is to achieve contrast effects known from HDR software with a single photo.

HDR tools need to compress the contrast range of a HDR image into the lower range of a screen or print. To achieve this 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 increases the contrast in some image areas, which makes many details better visible, and reduces the contrast in other image areas. So images processed with ContrastMaster may appear as if they were created from an HDR image.


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.


I would like know more about how the ContrastMaster effects work in order to be able to use it better. What are the principles behind it?

Providing more explanations than what is already written in the product description and the manual would not really help and probably even confuse some people. Even I, who wrote the algorithms behind the ContrastMaster effects, have to try out various settings for every image before I reach the best result. My mathematical knowledge about the effects does not give me any real advantage over a normal user. Each effect can produce very different results on different images, even when using the same effect settings. I am sometimes still surprised what ContrastMaster manages to do with an image.

The best approach is to try out the effects and controls and get a better feel for them. You can do that best if you use the Global Contrast, Dynamic Contrast, Adaptive Contrast and Local Contrast modes, because they apply the effect individually and not blended together like Novice and Expert mode. If you do not like working with many controls, you better stick to Novice Mode and take into account that you may not be able to achieve the absolute best results.


When I want to process huge images (100 Megapixel and more) ContrastMaster quits with an error message. What can I do to make it process these images?

ContrastMaster needs a multiple of the image size to process an image. So it needs a lot of RAM to process huge images with e.g. 12000 x 8000 Pixel. Here are some things you can do to make more memory available to ContrastMaster or to make ContrastMaster consume less memory:

1. Increase the Memory Usage value in the Preference dialog of Photoshop. Turn up the values as high as possible.
2. Add more RAM to your computer. Under 32bit XP and Vista add up to 4 GB of RAM and under 64bit XP and Vista add up to 6 GB of RAM.
3. Under 32bit XP set the /3G switch to allow ContrastMaster to use up to 3 GB of RAM (usually 2.7 GB RAM). Under 64bit XP and Vista ContrastMaster automatically uses up to 4 GB of RAM (usually 3.2 GB RAM).
4. If you only use the Global Contrast mode or Dynamic Contrast mode, ContrastMaster will use much less memory than with the other modes.
5. Scale down the image to make it smaller.
6. Another option would be to process parts of the images one after the other by using selections. But you need to make sure that the borders of the selection that lie inside the image are "feathered" in order to create a soft transition between the image parts. This can be done in Photoshop by creating a selection for the image part, switching to Quick Mask mode, creating another selection around the border and using the gradient tool for the producing a soft transition.


Should I use the Plugin or Standalone version of ContrastMaster?

If you mainly edit your images in an application, e.g. Photoshop, Elements or Paint Shop Pro, you should choose the Plugin version. For quick image processing without extensive editing, you could additionally use the Standalone version. If you do not have or use a plugin-compatible application, you should go for the Standalone version.

Here are some points that should help you find a decision:

Advantages of the ContrastMaster standalone:
1. The standalone runs on its own. The plugin requires that you have a host application, e.g. Photoshop, installed.
2. The standalone starts up faster. Launching Photoshop (or another host applications) and running the plugin takes much longer.
3. The standalone lets you edit multiple images non-destructively and save the results in one pass with the Batch command. In Photoshop (or other host applications) you usually only work on a single image and need to exit and rerun the plugin for every new image. If you batch process images in Photoshop, you cannot go back and edit the effect of a previous image.
4. The standalone consumes less memory than Photoshop (or another host applications).

Advantages of the ContrastMaster plugin:
1. You can open and save all image files that Photoshop (or another host application) supports.
2. You can use other features of the host application, e.g. layers, selections and brushes, that the standalone does not offer.
3. The 64-bit plugin lets you use more than 3 GB of RAM. The standalone does not allow that at the moment.


What is the difference between the Standalone and Lightroom version?

Essentially, the Standalone version is more flexible, but does not cooperate seamlessly with Adobe Lightroom. The Lightroom version is more convenient to use in connection with Adobe Lightroom. So the main point is whether you are using Lightroom or not.

If you use the Lightroom version, you need to select images in Adobe Lightroom before you run the ContrastMaster Lightroom version. You also cannot change the image format or location where the images are saved. That is handled by Lightroom. The Standalone version on the other hand lets you open and save images from/to any location as you please. You can also close and open images any time without exiting.

It may take more time for the Lightroom version to start up, because Adobe Lightroom always converts RAW files to TIFF before it runs external editors like the ContrastMaster Lightroom version. If you are editing TIFF or JPEG images in Lightroom, there is no start up delay. The Standalone version lets you open RAW files directly without any delay.

Still got questions ?