There is this new trend where people create crazy contrasted photos, its all over the Tumblr and Instagram.

I'm not in love with the style, but it looks so strange, that i can't help wondering - how are they doing it? How do people keep the all those details in the shadows, and in the highlights too.

Some examples:

Those are just some examples i could find really fast, but there are some much more impressive examples on tumblr, but it's hard for me to find them atm.

Anyway, I'm interested, if you wanted to replicate this, what would you do?

P.S. My knowledge of PS editing is on semi-advanced level, so don't hold back, explain the process in the way you are most comfortable the most, don't waste time explaining the basic concepts :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's well past its novelty phase. See what-is-tone-mapping-how-does-it-relate-to-hdr \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2016 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/37905/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 13, 2016 at 0:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Lots of linked to examples, fairly decent title, and a decent overall question. Welcome to the site have an upvote! I'm also not convinced that this an HDR or tonemapping technique in general; maybe for the first image but the others I'd say no. I would be interested in seeing someone provide a before/after of a nighttime cityscape that HDR achieved a similar look if they are convinced that is what was done. I'll throw a bounty at it if no-one jumps at it. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Mar 13, 2016 at 4:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @junkyardsparkle: not quite related to the question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2016 at 7:11

1 Answer 1


The processing of mentioned photos includes:

  • decreased saturation (and possibly vibrance)
  • decreased brightness
  • lowered contrast, either with curves/sliders or with tonemapping (despite what title says)
  • heavy vignetting
  • WB setting close to neutral
  • increased clarity.

How do people keep the all those details in the shadows, and in the highlights too.

It is because of contrast being low, not high. And because of clarity.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Decreasing global contrast while keeping local contrast ("clarity") is pretty much tone mapping in a nutshell. :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2016 at 7:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @junkyardsparkle: I did not say that tonemapping is unrelated, I said that it is not quite related. Clarity is kind of tonamapping too, just with smaller radius. Increasing clarity along with decreasing contrast may give results similar to tonemapping. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2016 at 7:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ All quibbles over semantics aside, there's a fairly good write-up of this process here. The software used is darktable, but it's a fairly generalized explanation, and covers some of the different approaches to compressing the dynamic range. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2016 at 5:18

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