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of the most powerful adjustment layers is the Curves Adjustment layer in Photoshop. Now, it's very similar to Levels, but you can control the midtones with much more precision. So, let's add a Levels Adjustment layer first so that I can explain what I mean. Here you can see the histogram of this image, and I can see that I don't quite have values in my highlights. So as we did in a previous video, I can scoot over my input level here to the left. But now, if I want to adjust the midtones of my image, I only have this single slider where I can either make the image lighter or I can make the image darker.
The power of Curves is that I can have up to 16 different sliders here. So let's go ahead and tap the Delete key and that will delete my levels Adjustment Layer. And instead we're going to add a Curves Adjustment Layer. Here, I can see that same histogram, and in fact, I can make changes to set my dynamic range here as well. So I'll bring over that slider. But now, instead of just having the ability to change one point in the middle of my histogram, you can kind of think as this curve as actually this histogram just rotated up like 45 degrees counterclockwise.
And here are my shadows and here at my highlights here, so if I put a point in the middle, that would be the equivalent to that midtone slider and level. And I can drag this point down or I can lift this point up just like we just saw in levels, but I can also move or reposition the point on the curve. So I could add a point and drag down in my shadow areas to darken them, but at the same time I could click a secondary point and drag up in my highlight area adding this nice S curve to my image and increasing the contrast.
So let's toggle that On and Off. That's before and that's after. There are also presets that are associated with curves. If I wanted to select something like a strong contrast, we can do that. We could add a negative which would invert the image. We could choose maybe medium contrast, or just increase the contrast a little bit. We could even do a color negative. Now, this is getting a little bit more advanced. Because what this preset does is it actually goes into. The individual red, green, and blue channels and it's actually inverting them.
So again a good reason to come in and look at some of these presets to see what else an adjustment later can do. But for now, let's just go ahead and click Default. But I also need to check and make sure that I'm not working on a single channel, so let's go back up to RGB here and now when I hold down the Option key we can set that white point just like we could in the levels dialog box. So, I just want to make sure that I'm not pushing any of my highlights to pure white. We'll add that S curve again by just clicking and dragging down in my shadow areas, clicking and dragging up in my highlight areas.
I might just want to make this a little darker, so I'm going to add one more point on my curve and drag this down. Now, be careful. If I drag down too far we're going to have a problem because there are only so many values across the curve. So every time I increase the slope of the curve, like right over here. I'm actually going to be increasing the contrast. But if I increase the contrast in one area, then I have to decrease the contrast in another area, and if the slope of the curve ever flattens out. Then, you get this kind of look, where you've just got these big kind of posterized areas in your image. So you do have to be a little bit careful, just be sure when you increase the slope of the curve in one area, you don't decrease the it so much in another area, that it flattens out and gets posterized.
If I want to remove a point on the curve, well, we'll notice that some of these points are hollow and some of these are full. if i go ahead and tap the delete key and remove the one that was filled. I can also just click an drag it off the curve. Alright, I just want to add one more point here in my shadows, and just lift it up a little bit. We'll toggle this on and off, so there's before and there's after. You can see I've made quite a dramatic change to this image. Now, before we wrap up, I want to leave you with one advance tip. When you're making such a dramatic change, using curves, a lot of times you'll get a color shift and I know we haven't talked about blend modes yet. But let me show you what happens when I change the blend mode, here, on this Curves Adjustment Layers from normal to luminosity.
Do you see how it decreased in saturation? So let me undo that, Cmd+Z. So that's what the blend mode set to normal when I use Cmd+Z again to redo, when I change the blend mode to luminosity, I'm telling Photoshop to apply this adjustment layer. But only do it to the grey scale values or the luminosity values. Do not affect the color values. So I know we haven't talked about blend modes before, but I just wanted to show you some of the power that you have when you make these kinds of adjustments using adjustment layers in Photoshop.
Because you have access to things like opacity, blend mode and of course the mask that comes along with that adjustment layer.
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