Make Your Photos Better Using Paint.NET Levels

Add a little pop to dull images

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

Paint.NET is software for Windows computers. The latest version is available in two editions. One is a free download, and the other version is available as a reasonably priced download at the Microsoft Store.

Open the Levels Dialog in Paint.NET

Launch Paint.NET and open 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 other image-editing software, this dialog may appear a little alien with its two histograms. However, it's intuitive to use and, while most of the magic is achieved through the Input slider, the Output Histogram is what you should focus on. 

Using the Input Levels Slider in Paint.NET

Adjust the Input slider to change the Output Histogram. As you do so, you see the changes affect the image in real time.

If the image was underexposed, the histograms are central with empty space above (the light end) and below (the dark end).

To improve the appearance of the image, stretch the Output Histogram so that there is almost no space above or below it. To do this:

  1. Slide the top Input slider down until it is almost level with the top of the Input Histogram. You'll see that this causes the Output Histogram to stretch upward.
  2. Slide the bottom slider upward to stretch the Output Histogram downward. 

Using the Output Levels Slider in Paint.NET

The Input slider does most of the work, but you can tweak an image with the Output slider.

Sliding the middle slider down on the Output slider causes the image to darken. Raising the slider lightens the image.

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've taken a photo with lots of contrast and a few small areas 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 action adds a slight gray tone to those areas. However, if the white areas are large, this can make the photo look flat, so be cautious.