Basic Photo Adjustments: Brightness and Contrast

This is the first of a series of posts on basic adjustments to improve your photographs in Photoshop. The Brightness/Contrast adjustment is probably the most basic and least useful adjustment you can make to a photo in Photoshop, but sometimes I find it useful. Always start by creating a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer by clicking on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. If you mess up your photo you can simply delete it. Never make an adjustment to your background layer. This adjustment only has two controls, one to adjust brightness and one to adjust contrast. You can click the Auto button and let Photoshop adjust brightness and contrast automatically, but usually it is better to adjust brightness and contrast manually by moving the sliders to the left or the right. Always adjust contrast first by moving the slider to the right to increase it and to the left to decrease it. Do the same with the brightness slider. There is no magic formula you can use to improve the overall tonality of an image. You have to eyeball the image and adjust it so it looks good to you. Later, we will cover levels and curves adjustments which give you a lot more control over the tonality of an image.