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Adjusting contrast using Color Curves

From: Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos

Video: Adjusting contrast using Color Curves

While used most often to repair color problems, Curves are also a wonderful way to bring back a faded photo. Curves are sort of levels 2.0. Levels is great for adjusting tones and contrast and Curves moves it to the next well level. Where Levels have three points of correction blacks, whites and mid tones, Curves adjust all the ranges in between. Adjust Color Curve is not an Adjustment layer which means the changes you make will be made on the layer you are working on.

Adjusting contrast using Color Curves

While used most often to repair color problems, Curves are also a wonderful way to bring back a faded photo. Curves are sort of levels 2.0. Levels is great for adjusting tones and contrast and Curves moves it to the next well level. Where Levels have three points of correction blacks, whites and mid tones, Curves adjust all the ranges in between. Adjust Color Curve is not an Adjustment layer which means the changes you make will be made on the layer you are working on.

So the first thing you need to do is duplicate the layer. To do this you go up to layer and Duplicate layer or you can use keyboard shortcut Ctrl or Command+J. With layer 1 selected go to the top menu and select Enhance, go to Adjust Color, Adjust Color Curves. The dialog box that comes up will have two images of the photograph, the one on the left shows the image before the adjustments, the other on the right shows real time the adjustments you're making.

This is a great feature; this photo restoration is all about the before and after. At the bottom right hand corner under Select a Style are a list of default styles you may want to go through just to get an idea of what the different styles will look like on your photo, you can always go back to the original by selecting the Default style option third down on the list. So play around and see what they do, lets try a couple of right now and see if anything happens. Let's go to Backlight and Darken Highlights, Increase Contrast, not really like what any of those do and I would liked to be in a little more control so let's hit default to go back to where we were and move over to the Adjust sliders.

Adjust Highlights lighten our darken the lightest areas of the photo, you need to use caution going too far with this adjustment as you can blow out your highlights and make it to light loose detail. But just play around see what they do, because you never know until you try, go back, go forward that looks pretty good right there. The Midtone Brightness slider adjust the lighter areas of the Midtones, if you go too bright or toward the plus sign on the slider, it can result in sort of a hazy, muddy look that's because the Midtones are the grays and making the photo too gray to make it appear hazy.

So you want to go down into this area, like that and that looks pretty good we will keep that right there. The Midtone contrast filter adjusts the darker areas of the Midtone's, if you go too far toward this negative area, that's where this one gets muddy. So you want to keep this one up toward the positive area, there that looks pretty good. The Adjust Shadows slider adjusts the shadows or the darker areas of the photos. Just as making the lights too bright can blowout details so can making the shadows too dark and all areas strive for moderation and subtlety.

So we want to go up here just a little bit and see what this does and this is looking a little dark lets mess around this here bring the Midtone Contrast down and that actually looks pretty good. If it any time you don't like the way the adjustments are looking and you want to start over, simply hit the third button down on the right hand corner to reset all the sliders and bring them back to their original default positions. So let's see how this looks, I click okay so that looks pretty good let's see what before and after look like? and you will see there is a great improvement.

While both Curves and Levels have their own charms and of course can be used alone, its sometimes a good idea to actually use curves after a Levels Adjustment to get the best result, it's always a good idea to at least try. Experimenting with tools, Adjustments, Filters and Combinations is the best way to learn and become comfortable with your software and the art of photo restoration itself.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos
Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos

40 video lessons · 6100 viewers

Janine Smith
Author

 
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  1. 1m 40s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      39s
  2. 13m 20s
    1. Identifying your media
      2m 45s
    2. Determining your equipment needs
      2m 24s
    3. Setting your scanner
      3m 26s
    4. Scanning negatives, slides, and film
      1m 11s
    5. Digitizing damaged and delicate photos
      3m 34s
  3. 10m 51s
    1. Importing photos into the Organizer
      3m 34s
    2. Adding captions and notes
      2m 47s
    3. Adding keyword and smart tags
      4m 30s
  4. 25m 11s
    1. Using Levels
      4m 7s
    2. Fixing fades with Threshold
      3m 22s
    3. Adjusting contrast using Color Curves
      4m 18s
    4. Darkening images with blend modes
      2m 12s
    5. Adjusting brightness and contrast
      2m 2s
    6. Using Quick Fix for lighting
      4m 12s
    7. Fixing automatically with Guided Edit
      4m 58s
  5. 18m 59s
    1. Using Levels to fix color
      3m 29s
    2. Correcting color automatically with Enhance
      3m 39s
    3. Correcting color with complementary colors
      5m 19s
    4. Using Color Variations
      3m 28s
    5. Using Quick Fix for color
      3m 4s
  6. 22m 37s
    1. Using the Clone Stamp tool
      5m 24s
    2. Using the Healing Brush
      5m 5s
    3. Working with newspaper and magazine images
      3m 12s
    4. Softening paper texture
      4m 40s
    5. Taming fingerprints
      4m 16s
  7. 42m 52s
    1. Repairing small rips and creases
      4m 22s
    2. Repairing large tears
      8m 22s
    3. Filling in missing pieces
      5m 36s
    4. Reassembling a photo from pieces
      10m 12s
    5. Fixing and replacing backgrounds
      5m 0s
    6. Using Photomerge with panoramas
      3m 59s
    7. Repairing documents
      5m 21s
  8. 22m 48s
    1. Creating a photo book
      6m 1s
    2. Making a calendar
      3m 52s
    3. Creating a personalized greeting card
      4m 26s
    4. Making a slideshow (Windows only)
      4m 22s
    5. Creating a flyer
      4m 7s
  9. 25s
    1. Final thoughts
      25s

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