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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.
One of the great things about Curves is that it is so flexible. You can apply pretty much any adjustment you can possibly imagine using Curves. And that opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. One of those possibilities is an Extreme Contrast Adjustment, which can provide a rather dramatic effect, as you'll see in this lesson. I've already added my Curves adjustment, so I'm ready to apply my Extreme Contrast Effect. To do so, all I really need to do is to adjust the black and white points in an extreme way. For this effect, I don't need to worry about the clipping preview. I'll simply watch the image and adjust until I like the effect. I don't need to worry about losing information because that's sort of the whole point.
Clipping the highlights and blocking up the shadows in order to produce extreme contrast. I'll go ahead and drag the black point inward and then fine tune each of them until I get to the point that I think the overall effect is working. As you can see, it looks a bit more like an illustration than it does a photograph. Of course, the colors are being adjusted in an extreme way as well. And I think in this case, I prefer to avoid that. I'd rather only enhance the contrast without exaggerating the colors. So, I'll change the Blend mode for this Adjustment Layer to Luminosity.
That way the adjustment will only effect the luminosity of the image, not the color. And as you can see that helps prevent the colors in the image from shifting, or in this case, getting extremely saturated. I can then continue to fine tune the effect, adjusting both the end points and also perhaps the actual curve itself. For example, applying a bit of an S Curve if I want to further enhance the contrast in the midtone range of the image. To be sure, an extreme contrast effect won't work for every photo. In fact, it will probably only work for a very small number of images. But when it does work, it can provide a great look along the lines of an illustration that can be very effective.
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