This paper presents a new technique for contrast enhancement for color images called histogram shifting with alpha rooting. The novelty in the presented method consists in adapting spatial domain techniques into the transform domain. The benefits of operating in the transform domain include low complexity of computations, ease of viewing, and manipulation of the frequency composition of the image and preservation of the phase information. The combination of the alpha-rooting algorithm, coupled with histogram shifting shows the method’s effectiveness for enhancing overexposed images. The contrast enhancement parameter of the algorithm is established automatically based on the entropy of the images. A comprehensive comparative study on image-enhancement algorithms based on discrete cosine transform coefficients is provided. Computer simulations and analysis are provided to compare the enhancement performance of the proposed technique to state of the art approaches. We perform a statistical analysis on the results and quantitatively show that the proposed approach performs well for color image enhancement, which is also validated by ratings from human observers.