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The Curves adjustment in Adobe Photoshop has a reputation for being challenging for some photographers. In this workshop, Photoshop expert Tim Grey takes you step by step through every aspect of the Curves adjustment, helping you truly understand the concepts behind it so that you can quickly and easily maximize tonal range, optimize contrast, and enhance your photos' color balance. Note: This course was recorded in Photoshop CS5, but was created with users of both Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS4 in mind.
Just as you can focus a general curves adjustment on specific tonal values within an image, you can also focus color balance adjustments within curves to make the most of the colors within the various tonal ranges in the image. Beyond just the basic color balance adjustment, you can apply an adjustment that would be difficult, if not impossible, using other tools. For example, in this image I've already added a curves adjustment layer and I want to focus my effort on the dark areas of the rock. There's a little bit too much magenta in those dark rocks.
That means increasing the amount of green since green is the opposite of magenta. But I don't want to take away too much of the reds found in the foliage which are a little bit brighter. I've turned the On Image Adjustment feature, so that as I move my mouse over the image, we can see where on the curve each of these areas resides. To shift the color balance to reduce the amount of magenta in the rocks, I'll need to choose the green channel first since green and magenta are opposites. Choosing green, I can then adjust the green curve using the on-image adjustment.
I'll simply click in the rocks in order to add an anchor point for the darker areas of the image. I can then move my curve upward to add green, or downward to add magenta. In this case I want to add green to those dark shadow areas, not too much, just a little will go a long way. So maybe somewhere around there, for example. However, I do feel that the color in the follige is not looking it's best at this point. So I want to add another anchor point on my curve for the brighter areas, so that I can tone down the effect and make them look a little bit more magenta than green.
In this case it will actually be more a matter of keeping it the way it looked, rather than shifting it toward more magenta. So as you can see with this curve, I've increased the amount of green for the darkest areas of the image, but I've not really affected the overall color in the brighter areas of the image. Just to see what else might be possible, I'll click and add an additional anchor point further up the curve to affect the brightest areas within the image. As you can see, I can shift the color for those bright areas between green and magenta since I'm working on the green channel.
What that means is rather significant. I can adjust the color balance, for dark versus bright areas, or for any tonal range within the image, for that matter, in opposite directions. I can make the shadows more green, and therefore less magenta, and I can make the highlights more magenta and less green. This is a very powerful capability within curves. And of course I can work on any of the other color channels as well. Adjusting, for example, red versus cyan specifically for shadows versus highlights and potentially in opposite directions for each.
By carefully adjusting the curve for each of the individual color channels you can apply incredibly advanced color adjustments to an image. Which will help insure ideal results in your final photograph.
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