Which module for contrast to use? Filmic or color balance rgb?

Hi there,
I don’t like the module “local contrast”, so I have to use somehow “normal” contrast because of using filmic.
Is there any difference between contrast in “filmic” and “color balance rgb”.
And, finally, which one is “better” :wink: :innocent:?
Yours, Frank

If you’re not going to use Local Contrast, then you should probably use both Color Balance RGB and Filmic. They’re quite different, and one is not “better” than the other.

Filmic will swr your upper and lower bounds for brightness, And Color Balance RGB allow you to refine you shadows/midtones/highlights contrast.

Consider Contrast Equalizer instead of local contrast.

I think the rule of thumb is to use the filmic contrast for global contrast settings, and use the contrast in color balance rgb only with masks. See the notes against the color balance rgb documentation here

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What version are you on…the diffuse module now in the dev version has a nice local contrast preset.

I don’t find the local contrast module too bad . I usually zero the highlights, bump the midtone slider and protect the shadows with a parametric mask . I also have a few presets with blending… I would look at the recent two part series that Boris created…@s7habo . There are lots of ideas and ways to introduce contrast with tone and color…

Just some random thoughts

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Hey, “diffuse” looks pretty cool, didn’t recognize that…
And, Boris’ channel is great, didn’t know it.

Thank you, I overread this…

Is there a good preset for “local contrast”? My skill is not sufficient, I’m afraid of…

I think its an extremely powerful module. I have not strayed far from the defaults……for example I use the local contrast preset and then try to bump iterations to 2 or sometimes 3…much higher on this or other settings seems to introduce a lot of grain.

I look forward to getting more proficient with it….

I think filmic is pretty much remapping your tones and also alters saturation in highlights and shadows. So it is much more than just a module for enhancing contrast. With color balance you can very elegantly change the contrast.
Hope that helps!

Best wishes from Germany
Daniel Spenner

Filmic maps the scene dynamic range to the display dynamic range. It’s not artistic, it’s technical : “white” on the scene may be 1600 times brighter than “white” on your screen, so we need a not-too-destructive way to convert the dynamic range (and gamut) between media.

Since this conversion usually involves compressing tones quite a lot (aka flattening the contrast), the filmic contrast slider is provided for damage control, to restore contrast around mid-tones. Think of it as a mitigation operation. It’s not artistic.

Color balance RGB contrast is meant only as a shortcut to quickly change the contrast of masked parts when used with masks (for example : enhance the foreground). It should not be used globally as it changes the apparent dynamic range of the picture and triggers circular editings when filmic is already set.

For artistic contrast, use tone equalizer.


Thanks a lot!
I’m not an artistic postprocessorer, I love a realistic look as I remember the scene. Many pictures in the web are oversaturated, oversharpened, over-all-ed. My intention was to compensate filmic. Sometimes, the contrast value of 1.35 in filmic is little too low. Filmic follows in the pipe after “color balance rgb”, therefore it is logical to do this compensation in filmic. Somewhat stupid, my question. :blush:

Boris’ channel is absolutely great! :+1: :+1: :+1:

Does this also apply to the Filmic middle tones saturation as well?

What about restoring contrast to highlights? Is there anything built into filmic that should do that or is it just other modules like local contrast? I’ve recently discovered that I can retain a lot more detail in highlights, especially clouds, by turning off filmic and just using the tone equalizer for all tonal edits. But this can be more time consuming and I miss out on the other nice features of filmic. If I’m not mistaken, filmic always compresses the highlights, even when I’ve exposed for the highlights and don’t need them to be compressed. Any recommendations?


Of course. The desaturation is a rough gamut handling.

But that’s by design… The output dynamic range is a finite resource. When the contrast is set > 1 (meaning the slope of the central part of the S curve becomes stiff), it means you expand the DR allocated to midtones. If you expand midtones in a finite range… obviously, you compress highlights and shadows. Hence the loss of local contrast near white and black.

So, either you set contrast close to 1 in filmic, or you dodge and burn the old-fashion way (masked exposure or tone EQ if regions are not sharply defined), but there is no magic trick that will allow to expand both midtones and highlights contrast at once in a finite dynamic range.

On another note, I think people overdo local contrast in highlights, especially in clouds. Look at any sky with your bare eyes… since you are half-blinded by the light intensity, you don’t see much anything in there anyway. More on that in a another post…


Thanks for the explanation.
I mainly do landscape photography and clouds are often the primary subject in the frame. At certain times of the day and with certain clouds (cirrus), they are not blinding to look at and have amazing detail. I expose to prevent highlights from clipping, so all this detail is captured by the sensor.

If I want to give most of the dynamic range to the highlights, effectively compressing shadows and some midtones only, is there a way to effectively “turn off” the compression done to highlights? If I’m not mistaken, setting the contrast to 1 in filmic still compresses the highlights. I’m fine with not using filmic at all for certain shots, but wondered if I was missing something.

You might be able to do something using the “shadows/highlight balance” control in the look tab and/or the “contrast in highlights” control in the options tab.

You could also try setting your white relative exposure so that those details aren’t right up against the edge of the histogram.

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Looking forward to that other post…

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I doubt its coming because clouds have incredible detail and depth when viewed with your eyes. Its part of basically all cultures to admire their shapes and detail.

Of course its made possible by the constant exposure adjustments of the eye and the image processing of our brains. Photography has to deal with the mismatch between a static image and the process of our vision and experience.


Ever went to a museum ? Because painters had all they wanted to paint super dramatic clouds, and yet they didn’t. I did a study at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and it turns out clouds are really more muted in paintings than in photography. That tells me the oversharpening crowd fucked the game in-between.

Sometimes, I see super dramatic clouds in real life. And then I realize my sunglasses have a polarizing filter. When I remove them, it’s just cottage cheese in blue sky.

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