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Color Curves is another tool in Elements that you can use to improve coloring contrast, which offers a few more options than the Levels and Shadow Highlight features described in the other movies of this chapter. Let's take a look at how it works. I'm currently in the Bridge application and I'm viewing the exercise files folders. I'm going to go ahead and scroll down here in the Content panel in order to open up the Chapter 10 folder. I will double-click that and then I'm going to double-click the Color Curves folder and then double-click the Maine House-1 image. I want to open that up inside of the Elements' Editing workspace. All right now this is actually a very nice image, however it lacks some contrast.
It's looking a little bit washed out. I would like to improve the image. I'm going to do so using a tool called Adjust Color Curves. Let's go on to the Enhance menu, and choose Adjust Color and then choose Adjust Color Curves. All right so here's our dialog box, it's a very large dialog box, that's because it has a before and an after preview inside of the box itself. So as we make our changes, we can refer to these two images before and after. However, note also that as we make our changes, we can move the dialog box out of the way and refer to what's happening to the image behind this as well, and actually it is going to be applied to the image behind the dialog box.
So you can look at the before here and after here as well. In case you need to see the image a little bit larger than what is in the dialog box because I think this is sometimes a little bit small. Notice down here this tip, select the style or curve prefer. If you would like to modify the settings adjust the sliders. Okay so the first thing I want to explain is this guy over here, this graph. What we have is this diagonal line here and notice the points along the line. This point over here in the bottom left corner is representing your darkest shadow areas. This point in the upper right corner is representing your lightest highlight areas.
There are 256 levels of gray throughout these images, so think of it as zero here and 255. This point right here is actually representing your midpoint, okay. This is your midtone point. Now we have got your quarter tones and your three quarter tones. So what we can do is move these points along the graph in order to change the tonality of our image. We can increase contrast, we can decrease contrast, increase midtones depending on which point we move and how far we move it, we can change the tonality of our image. Generally moving a point up is going to lighten that area of the photograph, moving it down is going to darken it. Moving it to the right is going to decrease contrast and moving to the left is going to increase contrast, so let's take a look at that now.
The first thing I suggest you do is try out these styles because when you click on these, it's going to apply a Curves adjustment that's already preset. So let's just scroll through these and see what makes the best adjustment to our image. Click on Backlight, that doesn't really help it much. It's making it look a little bit more washed out, Darken Highlights, not really helping too much, Default, which is making a little bit of an improvement but not much. Increase Contrast, which I think is helping but might be a bit severe. Increase Midtones, which is not exactly what we want to do. We already have a lot of good midtone information. Lighten Shadows, not what we want to do. And then there is Solarize. This is a very strange option here, look at the curve.
So as we're doing this, we're seeing these different points being moved along the curve. So I'm going to stick with increase contrast. Notice we have our traditional S-curve here that's what this is called; it's in the shape of a slight S. Anytime you see that, you're usually increasing contrast; I do like what's happening here. Let's take a look at the image in the background; that is helping the image. However I think it's just a little bit too much. So we can adjust these points along the curve by moving these sliders. Let's just start playing around with these here. If I move this slider to the right, notice it's moving this one here up and that's Lightening Highlight. If I move it to the left, it's darkening highlights.
I actually liked it where it was, so I'm going to leave it right there. We can also adjust the Midtone Brightness. If I move this to the right, it's moving the midtone point up and making it lighter. I like that. It's actually looking pretty good. If I drag it to the left, it's going to make the midtone areas darker and see that midtone point going down. So I think I liked it over just a little bit lightening up the midtones, just a little bit. Then we have Midtone Contrast, if I drag it to the left, it's going to increase contrast. If I drag it to the right, it's going to decrease contrast. I think I'm going to go this way.
And then we have Adjust Shadows. Again, moving this up, lightening up the shadow area, moving it down is going to darken up those shadow areas, and I don't think we need to that. I actually think the shadow areas are a little bit too dark. We have just made some minor adjustments to our curve here, it's not as severe as an S. All right, I think that's looking pretty good. Let's take a look in the background; I think we have made a nice adjustment to this photograph, increase the contrast looking good overall. Let's click OK to apply it and now here we have our improved photograph.
All right, so the thing to keep in mind here is that using the Adjust Color Curves, you can actually change the tonality of specific areas of an image by moving those points with the sliders. Okay it's really nice so you can do that. You can do it specifically in, the highlight areas, specifically in the shadow areas. That's the beauty of working with Adjust Color Curves.
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