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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.
While we are often focused on maximizing contranst in an image, in certain cases, reducing contrast by fading back the shadows and highlihgts can produce an interesting aesthetic result. Let's take a look at how this might be applied in a photographic image. I've already added my curves adjustment layer, so I'm ready to fade back my shadows and highlights. What that will accomplish is to reduce the value of black or white in the image. In other words, pixels that had been black or nearly black will now be considerably brighter, and pixels that had been white or nearly white will now be considerably darker. Ultimately, we could make such a strong adjustment that the image appears completely gray, or completely black or white.
Let's take a look. I'll start by adjusting the end point, the black point, on the far left of the curve. I'll drag it upward in order to brighten the value of black within the image. For example, at this point any pixel that had been black will now have a luminance of about 50% gray. I can continue taking this all the way to an extreme, in fact, adjusting the image so that it is pure white. Obviously there's no point in a blank, white canvas, so I'll go ahead and bring this value back down to a more normal level.
I can also adjust the white point in a similar way. Simply click and drag the end point on the curve and drag it downward to darken the brightest areas within the image. If I make the line horizontal in the middle. Of course, we'll end up with middle grey. In this case, I'll tone things down a little bit. And just go for a faded appearance by adjusting the individual black and white points. Effectively, just reducing contrast, but to an extreme degree. As you can see by taking an approach to curves that might be contradictory to what you would normally do to an image. You can achieve a new creative interpretation of that image.
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