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In this chapter, we are going to continue to talk about how we can improve the colors in our photographs. What I want to do in this movie is begin to deconstruct a little bit about how we can enhance the colors in our photographs by using Levels and Curves. Well here you can see in my Layers palette that I have three layers. I have a background image, really interesting photograph and we will be working on this photo in the next few movies. This particular photo I captured when I was down in mainland Mexico in the small town of Sayulita. I just love those colors. Then we have a black background and then this green color layer. Let me go ahead and click in the green color layer. What I am going to do here is open up a Curves adjustment and I am going to do that right on this layer.
You can open up a Curves adjustment by pressing good old Command+M on a Mac, Ctrl+M on a PC. Now you know how Curves works, right? If I click and drag up I will brighten up the image. Well what's going to happen to the color? Well, when I do that I am actually losing color. It's almost like I am filling the room with more light. There is less and less color until very at the end, I am removing all the color. So if I brighten up the image or add white to it, my color is shifted one way. Now on the other hand, if I darken the image we get a different shift. Now in this case, we have more and more color or color density and in a sense, color saturation when I drag this down. Again, I am removing more and more of the color because things are becoming completely black.
Okay well that's kind of interesting. If we brighten it, we shift it one way; darken it, another way. Well what about contrast? How are contrast and color connected? Well in Curves you can remove the contrast by lowering these two endpoints here and as long as I make sure the middle point is right where it always was, you can see here that I am just lowering the contrast of this photo. Now what has happened is I have a much less saturated green color here. On the other hand, I can increase the contrast by bringing these points in the other way and again, just bringing them in equal amounts. The center is still in the center point. Now here is my before and after. Well in that case, I have increased the color saturation and brightness and density of the photograph. So I have increased both the brightness and the density at the same time, giving me a more saturated color.
Now there are a couple of ways that we can do this with our photographs. Let's go ahead and cancel out of that and then go and turn off the visibility of those two layers and apply what we have learned to a photograph. Because you may be thinking I don't really get this. Well, stick with me. All right, we are here. We are going to go and click on our Curves adjustment layer. So we have a Curves layer above the background image. Now I am going to apply an S curve, which means I am going to brighten up my white. So I have brightened up the image. So I have a little bit of a brighter tone. Then I am also darkening my blacks. So when I do that I all of a sudden have this real intense color saturation.
Now I have gone a little bit too far but keep in mind, we are trying to deconstruct how this works and we are just beginning to think about how we can use Curves and Levels. Okay, well let's take a look at Levels. I will turn off the Eye icon for that layer. Click on my Adjustment Layer icon and choose Levels. Now here I only have three points but I can increase the amount of black I have in the image. Now the image is becoming too dark and if I go too far right, I remove all the color. But if I bring that up more black in the image, also a little more of white. So I am turning down the lights, I am adding the density and again, we have a very similar effect. Before and after.
So as you begin to work with color and color saturation, keep in mind that color intensity and contrast are closely related and sometimes all that you need to do in order to enhance the color in your photographs is to add a bit of a Levels adjustment or a bit of a Curves adjustment. Now the easiest way to do that is to go ahead and go back to your Adjustments panel. Now from here we can choose Level Presets. Let's say Increase Contrast 2. What it did is it brought those two points in at a certain level. Here is my before and after, wonderful.
I can also then go back there. There are different options for Levels as well as good old Curves. Here we can go to Increase Contrast but what does that look like? It looks like and S curve and then again, it increases the overall color saturation as well.
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