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The adjustment that gives you the most control over individual tones in an image is the Color Curves adjustment. This is a direct adjustment, not an adjustment layer, so you may want to make a copy of your image layer before you apply this adjustment. I'll do that by dragging this Background layer to the Add New layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel and I'll stick with the Background copy being the selected layer. Then I'll go up to the Enhance menu and I'll go down to Adjust Color and I'll choose Adjust Color Curves. By the way, this adjustment is certainly as much about contrast and lighting as it is about color.
That opens the Adjust Color Curves dialog box. I've moved it as much out of the way as I can so that I can see part of my image down here in the document window. But it's such a large dialog box that it may cover your image. That's okay because here in the dialog box there is a before and an after preview. As I make adjustments here, the after preview will change, so I'll keep my eye on that. I like to start here with one of the Preset curve styles that I'll select from this menu. I'll click on the first one keeping my eye on this preview, and then I'll just use the Arrow keys on my keyboard to cycle through them until I see one that I think looks the best.
I like the Increase Contrast style on this photo, so I'm going to cycle back up to that with the Up Arrow key on my keyboard. Selecting that style has altered the shape of the curve here on the right side of the dialog box. This curve represents the tones in the image with the brightest tones at the top right of the curve and the darkest tones at the bottom left of the curve. If you could imagine a straight line from the bottom left straight up to the top right, then you can interpret this curve like this. Everywhere that the curve is above the baseline, like up here, the corresponding tones in the image have gotten lighter.
And everywhere that the curve is below that baseline, the corresponding tones have gotten darker. So in this case, the three-quarter tone highlights have gotten brighter and the three-quarter tone shadow areas have gotten darker. And that creates this curve in the shape of an S. An S curve is typically the kind of curve that increases contrast in a photo. In other words, increases the range of tones. And if you take a look at the preview, you can see that that is the case. The dark areas are darker, the light areas are lighter, and so it looks like there's more contrast, as opposed to the before image that has this kind of gray cast over the whole thing due to lack of contrast.
Now I could stick with this Preset Curve style or I can tweak it to my liking using the Adjust Sliders here. If I want to make the brightest parts lighter, drag the Adjust Highlights slider slightly to the right and you can see that the corresponding area of the curve changed shape when I did that. If I want to make the midtones brighter, I'll drag the second slider to the right. Oftentimes, I like to add contrast in the midtones, but I think that there's already quite a bit of midtone contrast in this preview.
So I might actually drag the Midtone Contrast slider slightly to the left in this case to reduce midtone contrast. And if I want to open up the shadow area so we can see more detail, I'll drag the Adjust Shadows slider slightly to the right. I'm pretty happy with that result. I'm going to move this dialog box back over by dragging it by its title bar. If I wasn't satisfied with this result, I could click Reset and start again. I'm going to click OK and that closes the dialog box and here I can see my adjusted image.
To compare that to the original, I'll make my Background layer temporally invisible by clicking its Eye icon. So there's where the image started, and here's how it looks after increasing contrast in the Color Curves adjustment.
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