Free Lightroom Presets – Tonal Contrast Effect

One of my favorite effects in Photoshop plug-ins is the Tonal Contrast effect. onOne Software’s Perfect Effects has it, and Nik has it as well. But I know that lots of people still don’t use 3rd party plug-ins, so I set out to try to recreate the effect in Lightroom. After trying a bunch of different combinations I think I came pretty close.

Now, there’s definitely something in the “special sauce” that the plug-in companies use. So if you have the plug-ins (or are thinking of getting one), I’d still use them. Given the choice, I’d use the Perfect Effects Tonal Contrast effect before I’d ever use the one that I have here. But for those that don’t, this is a great alternative to help get that gritty/edgy/contrasty look right in Lightroom. Plus, as you can see below, it works on all kinds of photos – from portraits to travel to just about anything. As usual, there’s 3 different versions (Light, Medium, Strong).

NOTE: I’m going to put my usual HDR disclaimer here too, because I find that tonal contrast effects have a similar HDR-ish feel to them. So, here goes: If HDR (or tonal contrast) is the kind of thing that incites anger and criticism from you, then these presets aren’t for you. Don’t download, don’t try them out and don’t leave a negative comment on how HDR (or tonal contrast) is bastardizing photography and how everyone that uses it is a horrible person 😉

Here’s a few samples. You really have to try the presets out though, since they don’t show up as well when the images are small.

Hope you enjoy. Have a good one!


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  1. Hi, is this still available? Will anyone be so kind to email me the presets, please.

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  2. Will your presets designed for Lightroom $ work with Lightroom 5.6?

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    • Sorry, that was supposed to be Lightroom 4. Will your presets for LR4 work in LR5.6?

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  3. Have you taken down the links to your presets? It seems that none of them are working. Enjoy reading your blog and have just started working with lightroom.

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  4. Wow..this preset is EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you so much!

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  5. Matt,
    Got your dvd’s and books thanks for all your hardwork. your the man

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  6. Matt,
    first edition looks like a winner. I see its an iPad only app. I will be getting an iPad this year so my question is will the first edition be available free on iTunes for a little while?
    I have prior commitments at work on February 20 so won’t see you in Arlington but I am thrilled to see you guys coming into DFW area. Please come back again!

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  7. Great presets. Thank you. (I love the picture of ‘Le consulat’.)

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    • will u please send me that preset…i cant download it from this site..varghesedittu”

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  8. Matt – new to presets but I notice that if I double-click a preset file and LR asks if I want to install, it installs it in the User/AppsData/…..LR/Develop Presets folder, even if the LR Preferences is set to “Store with Catalog.” However, if I right-click User Presets in the Development Mod and select Import – it will put the file in the catalog. Strange behavior for having the option set to Store in Catalog – double-clicking to “Install” vs. Right-click “Import.” And I don’t see that you make a distinction in your video on Installing presets.

    I would think Importing and Installing should follow the same Preference setting – but they don’t. Sure looks like a LR bug, but maybe its just me.

    Being a little obsessed with backing up data, to get consistent results, where do you recommend storing/Importing/Installing the pre-sets? In the User Develop Presets folder or in the Catalog?

    Thanks very much

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  9. I’ve read some article says that there are a number of picture styles which can be used when shooting in modes such as manual, aperture and shutter priority. The creative control modes can only be used as their own independent modes, but you can increase or decrease the level of their affect.

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  10. Thanks, Matt. These are very cool. :)

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  11. A very nice resource of photoshop tricks. Thanks for the share!

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  12. I love this preset! Thanks, Matt.

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  13. thanks….great preset. good when one is “to lazy” to output to nik or others program. nice of you to share!!

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  14. One thing I’d love to see addressed is publishing images from LR to an iPad. Outside of exporting images to a separate folder, is there a decent way to publish images to an iPad that puts them into their own album in the iPad Photos app?

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  15. Hi Matt, I really love all the tips, idea, presets and other god stuff that you so generously have shared on the web thru the last years (I am from Sweden so excuse me for the spelling).

    A few years a go you made a preset for the Raw- program in Photoshop that you called SimCity. I have been looking for that preset for Lightroom 4, but can´t find it. Now I wonder if you have done it, and if so, where I can find it.

    One of your frequently readers!
    Anders Olsson

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  16. Hi Matt
    Love your presets. I realize I have presets unorganized. How do I move your older presets that are listed with many others under “User Presets” to “Matt’s Folder” up above? I see there are stored in application support. I just do not want to mess everything up. On an IMac – mountain lion.


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    • SInce you created a preset that emulates the Tonal Contrast effect that can be gotten in Color Efex Pro, I was wondering if you have something similar that emulates the effect of the Pro Contrast filter in Color Efex?

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      • Have you taken down the links to your presets? I cant download Lightroom Tonal Contrast Effect Presets

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      • Please fix the download link for Lightroom Tonal Contrast Effect Presets!

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