Make Your Photos Better Using Paint.NET Levels

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How to Use Paint.NET Levels to Improve a Photo

If you use a digitial camera but sometimes feel that your photos are a little flat and lacking punch, this simple fix using the Levels feature of Paint.NET maybe just what you need. This easy technique can really give a boost to photos that appear to be too low in contrast.

The accompanying image shows the original photo on the left and after a Levels adjustment has been made on the right. The following pages will show you how to achieve similar results.

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Open the Levels Dialog in Paint.NET

Once you've opened a photo that you feel lacks contrast, go to Adjustments > Levels to open the Levels dialog. The Levels dialog can appear a little intimidating at first sight. Even if you're used to making Levels adjustments in Adobe Photoshop or GIMP, this dialog may appear a little alien with its two histograms. However, it's very intuitive to use and, while most of the magic is achieved through the Input slider, the Output Histogram is what we will be mainly focusing upon. You'll note that at this point, the two histograms are mirror images.

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Using the Input Levels Slider in Paint.NET

We're going to now adjust the Input slider to change the Output Histogram and, as we do so, we will see the changes affect the image in real time.

We can see that the image has not been well exposed because the histograms are quite central with space above (the light end) and below (the dark end). To improve the appearance of the image, we want to stretch the Output Histogram so that there is almost no space above or below it. To do this, we slide the top Input slider downwards till it is almost level with the top of the Input Histogram. You'll see that this causes the Output Histogram to stretch upwards. You also need to slide the bottom slider upwards to stretch the Output Histogram downwards. See the adjusted histogram in the image.

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Using the Output Levels Slider in Paint.NET

The Input slider does most of the work, but we can also tweak the image a little with the Output slider.

Sliding the middle slider down on the Output slider will cause the image to darken and we can make the image lighter by raising the slider.

In most cases you'll only want to adjust the middle slider, but sometimes the upper slider can help a photo if used with care. One example would be if you'd taken a photo with lots of contrast and a few small areas had burned out to pure white, such as bright patches in a sky of storm clouds. In that case, you could drag the upper slider down a little and that would add a slight gray tone to those areas. However, if the white areas are too large, this can make the photo look a little flat, so take care.