Fine-tuning with the Tone Curve adjustment
Video: Fine-tuning with the Tone Curve adjustmentIn the basic section of the right panel in the Develop module, you'll find six slider that allow us to adjust the overall tonality for an image. These incluse exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. And in many cases these controls provide all you need in order to optimize the overall tonal appearance, the brightness and contrast winthin your image. However in some cases you might want to exercise just a little bit more control. And for that we can use the Tone curve. The Tone curve gives us many of the same basic capabilities, but with a little bit better control.
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In this workshop digital imaging guru Tim Grey focuses on the Develop module of Adobe Lightroom 4. Starting with an overview of the image optimization workflow in Lightroom, Tim walks you through the process of evaluating your images and deciding what adjustments you need to make. He teaches you how to use the Develop module's presets to achieve quick results, as well as how to apply your own adjustments, from simple exposure and color adjustments to advanced options like the Tone Curve and the Graduated Filter tool. Learn techniques for cleaning up your images, applying creative adjustments, and duplicating adjustments across multiple images. Finally, get some tips for integrating Lightroom and Photoshop to create panoramas and high dynamic range images.
- Evaluating images
- Seeing a before and after view
- Correcting mistakes with the History and Snapshot features
- Develop module basics
- Fine-tuning with the Tone Curve
- Sharpening an image
- Painting adjustments into an image
- Image cleanup
- Creative adjustments
- Duplicating adjustments
Fine-tuning with the Tone Curve adjustment
In the basic section of the right panel in the Develop module, you'll find six slider that allow us to adjust the overall tonality for an image. These incluse exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. And in many cases these controls provide all you need in order to optimize the overall tonal appearance, the brightness and contrast winthin your image. However in some cases you might want to exercise just a little bit more control. And for that we can use the Tone curve. The Tone curve gives us many of the same basic capabilities, but with a little bit better control.
I'll scroll down to the Tone curve section of the right panel. And you can see we have moment a linear curve, a curve that's not bent at all, in other words a straight line that really isn't a curve. But we can bend this line in order to adjust the overall luminous levels in the image. There are actually several ways we can approach this. One is to simply choose a point curve from the pop up. The linear adjustment causes no adjustment at all, in other words this default value with no change in the image itself. We can also add some contrast. These will apply what are known as "S curves" to the image where we increase the brighter values and decrease the darker values in order to improve mid-tone contrast.
The Medium Contrast option gives us a little bit of a boost in contrast. Mostly just darkening the darker areas of the image, and the Strong Contrast option, of course, will strengthen contrast even more, brightening the highlights and darkening the shadows. I'll go ahead and leave the Point Curve option set to Linear so that we can explore a little bit more closely how the Tone curve actually works. In its more basic format, we can adjust luminance values or brightness values for individual ranges of tonal values within the image. If you mouse over any of the sliders, you'll see an indication on the curve itself of which range of tonal values will be affected. We start with black at the far left and white at the far right. With all the shades of gray in terms of luminescence values spread out evenly in between.
So if we move the Highlight slider to the right we will be brightening up the brightest areas of the photo. You can see that the curve is moving up to indicate more light. And if we move to the left, we'll be reducing the amount of light and therefore darkening those brighter areas of the image. The lights encompasses a larger range of tonal values that goes down into the midtones. And so this will have a littel bit stronger effect on teh image overall by vitual of the fact that were effecting a larger range of tonal values. And thus more pixels within the image in this case.
The darks are essentially the opposite of the lights. That's the lower range of tonal values, but again, a relatively broad range. And so if we move the slider to the right, we'll brighten up all the darker values in the image, and if we move to the left, we will darken up all of the darker values. But again, those darker values go all the way up into some of the lighter values that are brighter than middle gray, at least. And so it's a rather broad range of values that we're affecting there. And the shadows, much like highlights, is affecting a relatively narrow range, in just the darkest values within the image. We can also fine tune the range of tonal values being affected. Let's assume for example that I want to darken up the darkest values of the image but really just a very, very narrow range.
On the curve itself, you'll see sliders that indicate the division of each region, or the center point of that region. We can define that region a little bit differently by moving those sliders left and right. So for example if I move to the right, you'll see that now more areas are going to be included in that shadows range, if I move to the left. Then fewer areas will be included in that range. So we can custom define exactly which range will be effected by each of the sliders. In this case, I think it's fine to leave those settings at their defaults.
But then I could fine tune each of the sliders, in order to produce the best results in the photo. If I'd like to exercise a little bit more control I can also work directly on the curve with anchor points. I'm going to go ahead and reset the adjustments for this image and then I'll click the button over to the right of the point curve pop-up in order to switch into point curve mode. You will notice now that the sliders disappear but we can work directly on the curve. I can click and drag anywhere on the curve in order to focus an adjustment on a particular range of tonal values. So for example, perhaps I will brighten up the brighter areas and then click in the darker region of the curve in order to tone down the darkest areas. Thereby creating an adjustment where we've added considerable contrast, but also have brightened up the brightest areas.
When you're viewing the curve you can read the adjustment effectively by looking at the shape of the curve. You'll notice there's a dashed line which indicates the original, or un-adjusted position for the curve. Any areas of the curve that are higher then that original level indicate portions of the image that has been brightened. And any areas where the curve is lower, represent tonal values that have been darkened. A curve that is steeper than that original line indicates an increase in contrast. And a curve that is more shallow than that original line indicates a reduction in contrast. So for example here you can see that we've increased mid tone contrast relatively significantly.
But we've also tapered that off to the white point and the black point. And speaking of black point and white point, I'll go ahead and reset one more time. If I grab the end of the curve, I can adjust the value for white. So, for example, bringing the white point in so that more pixels in the image will become white. This is much like the Exposure adjustment. And we can also bring the black point in if I want to increase the amount of tonal values within the image that will be represented as black. For example, to create a silhouette. In theory you could also tone down blacks by moving the Black slider upward or tone down whites by moving that White slider downward.
But in most cases, that's going to create a bit of a muddy appearance within the image. Finally, we can also work directly on the image with curves. You'll notice a little bull's eye icon over at the top left of the Tone curve. If you click that Icon, you will activate the On Image Adjustment feature. And you can then simply point to an area of the image. Let's say I want to brighten the brights. I can point to a bright area of the image and then click and drag upward in order to brighten that portion of the image.
I can then go point at a dark area for example, and click and drag downward perhaps to darken those areas of the image. So this is an option that allows us to work directly on the image in order to affect a tonal adjustment. And often times that really works very nicely because you're thinking about wanting to brighten certain areas and darken certain areas. And that's based largely on luminensce values and with this On Image Adjustment feature, you can simply click and drag on those portions of the image in order to lighten and darken. You're still affecting the entire image, but you're able to apply the adjustments by pointing to and dragging the image rather than using the tone curve.
When you're finished with that on image adjustment, you can simply click on the icon again, and you're back to your normal tone curve adjustment. As you can see, the tone curve enables a relatively sophisticated way to work on your overall tonal adjustments in a photo.
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