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Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

From: Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

Video: Levels and Curves adjustments

With HDR imaging, you do tend to be very focused on tonal adjustments for the photo. So you'll probably spend a fair amount of time fine-tuning the settings for tone compression, as well as tonality. But you can also take things a little bit further with some finishing touches in the way of tonal adjustments. And those are specifically the levels and curves adjustments. Now, you may be familiar with levels and curves in Photoshop as individual adjustments. In HDR Efex Pro, they're actually blended into a single adjustment.

Levels and Curves adjustments

With HDR imaging, you do tend to be very focused on tonal adjustments for the photo. So you'll probably spend a fair amount of time fine-tuning the settings for tone compression, as well as tonality. But you can also take things a little bit further with some finishing touches in the way of tonal adjustments. And those are specifically the levels and curves adjustments. Now, you may be familiar with levels and curves in Photoshop as individual adjustments. In HDR Efex Pro, they're actually blended into a single adjustment.

It's found in the Finishing section of the right panel. So I'll click on the header for finishing, in order to expand the available controls there. And then I'll click on the triangle to the left of the levels and curves label, in order to expand the adjustments there. We can work with a preset for levels and curves just by clicking the pop up to the right of that label. You'll see that we have a neutral adjustment, several adjustments for film with various exposure value adjustments, dark contrast, bright contrast, vintage one, two, and three. So a variety of presets that are available for levels and curves, but we can also work directly with these adjustment controls.

The slider handles below the curve represent the black point, the white point, and the overall mid tone adjustment for the image. And this operates just like the levels adjustment that you might already be familiar with. If we drag the black slider inward, we're increasing the amount of blacks within the photo. And if we drag the white slider inward, we're increasing the amount of whites within the photo. In the process, we're increasing contrast, but of course, we might also be losing a certain amount of detail in the darkest or brightest areas of the photo, respectively.

We can also adjust the overall brightness of the photo by adjusting that mid tone slider, moving to the left to brighten the image and moving to the right to darken the image. Note that you'll also have some impact on the overall contrast in the image, since that mid tone adjustment is really applying a tone curve to the image. In addition to working with these sliders though, we can work directly on the curve itself. So, I'll go ahead and reduce the exaggerated effect that I've applied here, and then we can take a look at how we can fine-tune the overall adjustment, the tonal adjustment, for the darkest or brightest areas of a photo, for example.

And that's done by working directly on the curve. The left portion of the curve represents the darkest values in the image, and the right portion of the curve represents the brightest areas of the photo. And so if I drag the curve downward over toward the left, I'm darkening the image. But I'm focusing that adjustment on the darkest portions of the photo. Similarly, I can drag a portion of the curve upward in order to brighten that area. Over toward the right, for example, if I drag upward, I'll be increasing the brightness for the brightest areas of the image.

In the process, of course, I'm enhancing contrast for all those mid tones as well. If I decide that a particular point on the curve is proving to be problematic, I can simply click and drag on that point and release my mouse outside of the curve area, and that anchor point will be removed. In addition to working on the overall RGB image, I can also work on the individual color channels, or on just the luminosity. So if I want to affect overall luminance values without affecting color, I can work on the luminosity channel. And if I want to work on the overall color in the image, I can work with the red, green, or blue channels.

Red allows me to shift between red and cyan, green allows me to shift between green and magenta, and blue allows me to shift between blue and yellow. So for example, if I wanted to warm up the image, shifting it a little bit more toward yellow, I could choose the blue channel. And then adjust the overall shape of the curve to either increase or decrease the amount of blue. And that means essentially shifting toward blue or toward yellow, which is the opposite of blue. In this case, for example, maybe I want to create a little bit more dramatic effect by making the image appear a little more yellow, like it's illuminated by some very yellow lights on the exterior of this building.

Essentially matching up a little more with the interior lights. Obviously, it's possible to get very sophisticated with your levels and curves adjustments, fine-tuning the black point, the white point, and the overall mid tone contrast and luminance values. As well as fine-tuning color and luminosity through the various channels that are available to work with. But overall, this gives us a tremendous ability to fine-tune the appearance of our HDR image directly here within HDR Efex Pro.

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Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

25 video lessons · 2106 viewers

Tim Grey
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