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When you create a black and white interpretation of an image you have tremendous control over how the various color and luminance information in the image is translated into a black and white result. Even so, in most cases the image will benefit from additional adjustments. And as you'll see in this lesson, the curves adjustment provides exceptional value in this regard. To get started I'll convert this image to black and white. So I'll add a new black and white adjustment layer and then fine tune it as I see fit. I might brighten up some of the greens in the background, here, and I could darken up other areas of the image. When I'm happy with the overall result, I can continue to fine tune using other adjustments.
Let's take a look at the use of the curve's adjustment for this type of purpose. I'll go ahead and add an additional adjustment layer. In this case, obviously, curves, which will go above my current black and white adjustment on the adjustments panel. So both of these adjustment layers are going to work in concert with each other in order to affect the overall appearance of my original background image layer. There are a couple of key things that I would focus on in curves when working with a black and white image. The first is to check my black and white values. I want to make sure that the darkest pixels in the image are black and the brightest pixels are white in most cases. That will help maximize the overall tonal range within the image. I'll take advantage of the clipping preview in applying these adjustments. To do so I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while adjusting the sliders for black or white points.
I'll start with black here and as you can see right off the bat I have an indication of clipping in the darkest areas of the image. So I don't want to move the slider any further to the right, because I don't want to lose any more information in the dark shadow areas. I'll then turn my attention to the highlights, again, holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, and clicking and dragging the white point slider over to the left. Once again, you can see that the brightest areas of the image were already white. And so, I don't want to lose anymore information by moving that slider over to the left. But this clipping preview display allows me to get a sense of where and to what degree I'm losing information if I take the adjustment too far. Once establishing those end points it's time to focus on the rest of the curve. Now in general, if we move a curve upward, we're brightening the image and if we move the curve downward we're darkening the image. But we can focus that darkening or lightening effect on a particular tonal range.
For example having added an anchor point by clicking on the curve, I can drag that anchor point to a different position. In this case emphasizing the effect in the darkest areas of the image. Whether I want to brighten the dark areas or darken them in order to produce the desired effect. In this case I'd like to get a little bit more drama in the image, so I'm going to darken down the shadows just a little bit. Now this has darkened the overall image, so I want to brighten up the other portion of the curve. In fact, I think most of this curve I would like to have representing a brightening adjustment.
In other words, for most of the tonal values within the image, I would like to brighten them relative to where they were before I applied a curves adjustment. So I'll simply click on my curve and drag upward, fine-tuning the position so that I'm brightening a relatively broad range of tonal values within the image. So for example, you can see that the curve has moved downward for the darkest portion of the image, and the curve has moved upward for the brightest portion of the image. This is actually a variation on a standard s-curve, where we're brightening the bright areas and darkening the dark areas in order to enhance contrast, but with a tremendous amount of control over the image. Using curves allows you to apply incredible power in fine tuning your initial black and white interpretation of an image. In fact, because curves is first and foremost focused on luminance values in an image, it is an ideal tool for optimizing your black and white images.
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