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Adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, brightness, contrast, and black point

The Lightness adjustment lets you change various aspects of the lighting in an image. It includes sliders for adjusting exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, and black point. You can also improve the lighting automatically using the machine learning-powered ML adjustment.

Adjust the exposure of an image

When taking a picture, the amount of exposure chosen normally determines how bright or how dark the final image will turn out. The higher exposure — the brighter the shadows, midtones, and highlights in an image. Lower exposure does the exact opposite — darkens all the tones. The exposure slider lets you adjust these settings after the image has been taken.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Exposure slider to the right to make the image brighter, or to the left to make it darker. Hold down the Option ⌥ key before dragging if you’d like to extend the range of the Exposure slider beyond 200%. You can also enter a percentage value from –400% to 400%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Adjust the highlights of an image

Using the Highlights slider you can adjust the brightest areas of an image to bring out hidden detail if a photo was shot with strong backlighting or the subject was too close to the camera flash. Highlights looks at the surrounding pixels to increase detail and bring out textures only in the highlights of an image without affecting brighter areas in the rest of the image.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Highlights slider to the right to make the highlights brighter, or to the left to make them darker. You can also enter a percentage value from –100% to 100%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Adjust the shadows of an image

Using the Shadows slider you can adjust the darkest areas of an image to bring out the hidden detail or increase contrast in the shadows.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Shadows slider to the right to make the highlights brighter, or to the left to make them darker. You can also enter a percentage value from –100% to 100%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Adjust the brightness of an image

Using the Brightness slider you can adjust the brightness of an image to make it lighter or darker. When adjusting brightness, the most noticeable changes happen in the midtones rather than the shadows or highlights.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Brightness slider to the right to make the image brighter, or to the left to make it darker. Hold down the Option ⌥ key before dragging if you’d like to extend the range of the Brightness slider beyond 100%. You can also enter a percentage value from –200% to 200%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Adjust the contrast of an image

Using the Contrast slider you can adjust the contrast of an image. Increasing contrast makes the highlights brighter and the shadows darker, expanding the tonal range of an image. Decreasing contrast darkens the highlights and lightens the shadows.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Contrast slider to the right to make the image brighter, or to the left to make it darker. Hold down the Option ⌥ key before dragging if you’d like to extend the range of the Contrast slider beyond 100%. You can also enter a percentage value from –200% to 200%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Adjust the black point of an image

Using the Black Point slider you can increase or decrease the tonal range of an image by setting which color should be pure black.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Drag the Black Point slider to the right to set a lighter part of your current image as the black point (thereby making the darkest areas darker), or to the left to set a darker area of your current image as the black point (thereby making the darkest areas lighter). Hold down the Option ⌥ key before dragging if you’d like to extend the range of the Black Point slider beyond 100%. You can also enter a percentage value from –200% to 200%.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Automatically adjust the lighting in an image

The machine learning-powered Lightness adjustment improves the lighting in your image automatically.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Color Adjustments > Lightness (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Tools sidebar, click and turn on Lightness or add it from the Customize menu at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.
  2. Click ML in the Tool Options pane next to the Lightness adjustment.

Show Original: Click the Show Original button or press Control ⌃ + M on your keyboard to see what the image looks like without any color adjustments.

To reset all Color Adjustments, click Reset at the bottom of the Color Adjustments pane.

Pixelmator Pro User Guide