How to Improve Contrast and Colour of Your Photos in Adobe Lightroom Classic

If you want to take photography as not just a hobby and want to shoot images seriously, you must shoot in RAW. Most amateur photographers shoot in JPEG format and the possibility of the high-quality output of a picture is killed by them. As they shoot in JPEG, they capture the compressed data and during post-production, they cannot get the best of output from their pictures. So it is always recommended to shoot in RAW and process the image in a RAW processing software for some basic contrast and colour adjustments before taking the image to Photoshop for finer retouching.
In this article, I am going to describe the use of Adobe Lightroom Classic as a RAW processing software for improving the contrast and colour of an image.
Adobe Lightroom Classic is a world-class desktop-focused RAW processing software used mainly for global adjustments on a picture. By the term ‘global adjustments’, I mean the adjustments applied to the whole image. But Adobe Lightroom Classic also provides you to use some of the local adjustments tools to improve some of the specific parts of an image as you need it. By the term ‘local adjustments’, I mean the adjustments applied to the specific parts of an image locally. It’s just the opposite to global adjustments.
In this article, I will describe how you can use the global adjustment tools in Adobe Lightroom Classic for an overall improvement of contrast and colour of an image.


Improving Contrast and Colour in Adobe Lightroom Classic


Development Module

To make necessary adjustments on an image to improve its colour and contrast, you must go to the Development Module of Lightroom.

Global Adjustments

Basic Panel

This panel consists of most of the basic colour and luminous intensity correction tools. The tools give you an overall global approach to edit a RAW file in Adobe Lightroom Classic. All the tools have sliders that with ‘+’  effect on the right side and ‘-‘ effect on the left. The Basic Panel comes with the following tools.


In the Basic Panel of Lightroom Development Module, first comes the Treatment option. You need to choose the treatment of your image you want to apply, whether it is colour or black and white. Different profiles are available depending upon the treatment chosen. Adobe Lightroom gives you 7 Adobe RAW profiles, 11 Camera Matching profiles, 8 artistic profiles, 17 B&W profiles, 10 Modern profiles and 10 Vintage profiles to start with. You can start with choosing one from the 7 Adobe Raw profiles- Adobe Color, Adobe Monochrome, Adobe Landscape, Adobe Neutral, Adobe Portrait, Adobe Standard and Adobe Vivid. As a fine art landscape photographer, I often choose between Adobe Color, Adobe Monochrome and Adobe Landscape profiles. You can always choose from different profiles depending upon your artistic vision.

White Balance

Adobe Lightroom gives you the freedom to choose from some of the standard White Balance presets- As Shot, Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, fluorescent and Flash. You can always customize the White Balance of your image according to your artistic vision using the Temperature & Tint sliders.

Temperature & Tint

Though Adobe Lightroom Classic gives you some of the best presets for correction of white balance of an image, you can always override the preset numbers using the temperature and tint sliders. Moving the temperature slider on the right gives you warmer tones and moving it to the left gives cooler tones. And the tint slider enables you to adjust the use of colour tint on an image.


Though Adobe Lightroom gives you the ability to adjust the tonal and luminous values automatically based on the tonal and luminosity ranges of an image using the Auto Mode of Tone and also gives you a fair starting point, I seldom use this feature. Because this approach often limits your aesthetic venture.


As the name suggests, the exposure slider is used to adjust the overall exposure of an image; moving the exposure slider on the right, gives more exposure to an image and moving it left brings down the exposure. 


This slider is used to bring more contrast to an image. Contrast makes bright brighter and dark darker. So one should use this slider very cautiously as it may cause white-point or black-point clipping on the Histogram. I personally feel this is not the best tool to bring contrast in an image.


Moving the highlights slider to the left often bring some details in the highlights are of an image. I always try to keep the highlights slider to -60 or -70 for almost all my landscape images.


Shadows slider is used to bring out the details in the shadow areas of an image. But you should use it cautiously because moving the slider too much on the ‘+’ side may bring some noise in the shadows.


Moving the slider on the ‘+’ side makes white whiter but should be used cautiously so that it does not make white point clipping on the Histogram. On most images +10 value works well; but it depends on the luminous value of an image.


Like the whites slider, Blacks slider makes blacks present in an image more black and it also should be used keeping in mind the black point clipping on the Histogram. On most images, -5 or -10 works well though it depends on the requirements of an image.


This new slider brings textures and a little bit of contrast mostly to the areas of same tonal values.


This slider increases the midtone contrast and reveals details. Shadow or highlights clipping on the Histogram should be avoided while using this slider. Using this slider too much on ‘+’ side may bring some noise and create halos around the edges.


The new Dehaze slider fixes the atmospheric haze in an image. Dragging it right will remove haze and dragging it left will add haze. Though this slider improves the visibility in the distant areas of an image, it may result in a black point or white point clipping on the Histogram. It may also introduce noise. So always use this slider very cautiously.

Vibrance & Saturation

Both the tools improve the colour and saturation of an image. While increasing saturation boosts colour saturation of the whole image affecting all the colours and makes an image over-saturated, use of the vibrance slider enables you to increase the saturation of the weaker colours of an image. Vibrance tool boosts the saturation of an image subtly. I rarely use the saturation tool; instead, use the vibrance tool for better colour saturation of my images.

Tone Curve

The Tone Curve enables you to lighten or darken specific tones and helps to boost the contrast of an image. The Tone Curve has a diagonal line with ‘0’ luminous value on the left representing the black point on the Histogram and ‘255’ luminous value on the right representing the white point on the Histogram. Access to the individual colour channels (Red, Green and Blue) in the Tone Curve tool also helps you target specific colours and make necessary adjustments to the specific tones and colours of an image. You can use the freehand curve or points curve to make necessary adjustments on an image. You can also use the “Click and Drag” button to select a specific part of an image for applying the adjustments you want.

Split Toning

Split Toning enables you to specifically target the highlights and the shadows of an image to change the colour and make tonal adjustments in those areas; not only that, this panel also gives you the facility to make a subtle balance of the tones in the highlights and the shadows using its balance slider.

HSL/Color Panel

The HSL or Color Panel in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW stands for hue, saturation and luminance. This is a combined panel of three individual panels of hue, saturation and luminance. This panel gives access to the selectively adjust the hue, saturation and luminance of an image. The panel consists of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Aqua, Blue, Purple and Magenta sliders. Each slider is present in each individual panel of hue, saturation and luminance. You can specifically target each individual colours to adjust the tonality of an image.


Adobe Lightroom is a world-class image-editing application with tons of features other than the Development module. This software uses the same image-editing engine that the Adobe Camera RAW uses in its core. The best part of this RAW processing software is its Library module that makes it easy to arrange all your images as per your requirements. This single application can be called the photographers’ best friend in image editing if it’s not an exaggeration.

In this article, I have mentioned some of the Global Adjustment tools required for colour and contrast adjustments of a photograph and have tried to give you some basic ideas of some of the tools of the Development Module of Adobe Lightroom Classic. There are several other Local Adjustment tools that can also pop colour and contrast of a picture locally.

Would like to know more about the Local Adjustments tools in future articles? Please let me know in your comments.

What do you think about this article? Please leave your comments below.

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