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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.
The curves adjustment revolves around the use of anchor points for the purpose of changing the shape of the curve and thus changing the appearance of the image. One of the key skills to focus on in order to make the most of your curves adjustment is the ability to fine tune the anchor points that define the final appearance of the image. Let's take a look at how to adjust the results you'll obtain by fine-tuning the anchor points that define the curve. In this case I've already added a curves adjustment and in fact have applied some changes to the curve using a variety of anchor points.
In this case though, the shadows are looking a little bit too dark. Well actually, a lot too dark, so I really need to make some changes to the shape of the curve. It looks like the dark shadow areas are the biggest problem, so I know that this anchor point, down near the dark end of the curve is really the biggest problem. So I'll go ahead and click and drag to move that curve around. Now when I'm using the On Image adjustment to drag directly on the image, I can only move an anchor point up or down. However, when I'm working directly on an anchor point on the curve, I can actually move left and right as well. This allows me to change which tonal value I'm emphasizing for that particular anchor point.
So for example, I could move this anchor point over to the right so that I'm focusing the effect on a brighter range of tonal values within the image. I can then, of course, move the anchor point up or down as needed. In this case, I'd like this anchor point to apply an adjustment that focuses on a little bit brighter range of tonal values within the image, so I'm going to move that anchor point to the right, and of course, to avoid the darkening, I'll move it up just a little bit more. To exercise even greater control I don't even need to use my mouse. With this anchor point active,which is indicated by the fact that it's filled in with black, I can use the arrow keys on the keyboard to adjust the position of that anchor point, up arrow will move it up, down arrow will move it down, and left and right will move it left and right of course. If I need to move an anchor point to a larger degree I can hold the Shift key, while pressing any of the arrows, to increase the amount of movement by a factor of 10.
I can also use the keyboard shortcuts to move among the anchor points. If I press the equal key, which also has the plus sign on it, I'll move to the next anchor point, and pressing the minus key will move to the previous anchor point. I can also select multiple anchor points and move them in unison. For example, if I wanted to brighten the overall image, I might want to move both of these two anchor points upward to the same degree. With one anchor point selected, I can then hold the Shift key and click on the other anchor point, and as you can see, they are now both selected.
Pressing the up or down arrow keys I can now brighten or darken the image overall as I see fit. By focusing on very subtle adjustments for each anchor point you define in curves you'll ensure the best overall results for every image. That means moving the anchor point to a very small degree. Which is where fine tuning using the arrow keys really shines.
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