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Photoshop CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Increasing midtone contrast with Curves


From:

Photoshop CS6 Essential Training

with Julieanne Kost

Video: Increasing midtone contrast with Curves

As I've mentioned before, if your workflow starts in Bridge and you're opening your raw files or your JPEG files into Adobe Camera Raw, you want to make as many of your global adjustments and corrections to your tonal values and your color values in Camera Raw. You want to do that at the beginning of your workflow. If however you find yourself in Photoshop, and you need to make another correction, especially if you need to make a local correction, then Photoshop has a ton of powerful tools in order for you to do that. I think one of the most powerful tools has got to be the Curves adjustment layer.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. What is Photoshop?
      1m 42s
  2. 1m 11s
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
  3. 32m 15s
    1. What is Adobe Bridge?
      2m 49s
    2. Getting photos from a camera
      4m 27s
    3. A tour of workspaces in Bridge
      5m 32s
    4. Customizing how thumbnails are displayed
      3m 44s
    5. Changing file names and batch renaming
      2m 58s
    6. Adding basic metadata with metadata templates
      5m 10s
    7. Creating and applying keywords to images
      4m 58s
    8. Viewing images in Full Screen Preview mode
      2m 37s
  4. 27m 1s
    1. Using Review mode to filter out rejected images
      4m 18s
    2. Saving images in collections
      4m 23s
    3. Rating and labeling images
      3m 46s
    4. Using the Filter panel to view different subsets
      4m 16s
    5. Using smart collections
      4m 18s
    6. Viewing final selects in a slideshow
      2m 21s
    7. Organizing groups of images into stacks
      3m 39s
  5. 32m 8s
    1. Comparing RAW and JPEG files
      6m 10s
    2. Starting in Camera Raw instead of Photoshop
      3m 12s
    3. Touring the Camera Raw interface
      9m 13s
    4. Previewing before and after adjustments
      3m 58s
    5. Toggling onscreen shadow and highlight clipping warnings
      3m 11s
    6. Choosing output settings
      3m 36s
    7. Saving a copy without going to Photoshop
      2m 48s
  6. 38m 37s
    1. Using the nondestructive Crop tool
      4m 42s
    2. Correcting a horizon line with the Straighten tool
      2m 41s
    3. Fixing color casts with the White Balance tool
      3m 50s
    4. Fixing blown-out highlights
      2m 56s
    5. Revealing hidden shadow details
      3m 7s
    6. Correcting lens distortion
      3m 25s
    7. Making perspective corrections to images
      2m 40s
    8. Removing color fringing and chromatic aberrations
      2m 28s
    9. Sharpening the details
      7m 45s
    10. Making an average photo great
      5m 3s
  7. 51m 2s
    1. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      6m 57s
    2. Making local adjustments with the Adjustments Brush
      10m 19s
    3. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool
      3m 41s
    4. Exploring a quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity
      4m 31s
    5. Converting to black and white
      2m 36s
    6. Editing images directly with the Targeted Adjustment tool
      3m 21s
    7. Creating selective color effects with the Adjustment Brush
      6m 5s
    8. Using sepia and split-tone effects
      3m 33s
    9. Adding digital film grain texture effects
      2m 20s
    10. Adding vignettes and border effects
      3m 59s
    11. Saving variations within a single file with the Snapshot command
      3m 40s
  8. 15m 13s
    1. Copying and pasting settings across files
      2m 4s
    2. Processing multiple files in Camera Raw
      3m 22s
    3. Saving and using the library of Camera Raw presets
      6m 48s
    4. Using Image Processor to batch process files
      2m 59s
  9. 30m 24s
    1. Opening files from Bridge
      2m 7s
    2. Opening files from Mini Bridge
      2m 51s
    3. Customizing the Mini Bridge panel
      3m 59s
    4. Using the Application frame
      3m 34s
    5. Managing panels
      5m 14s
    6. Switching and saving workspaces
      4m 39s
    7. Switching tools using the keyboard
      2m 47s
    8. Customizing the keyboard shortcuts
      5m 13s
  10. 10m 25s
    1. Working with tabbed documents
      1m 34s
    2. Arranging documents
      1m 52s
    3. Stopping Photoshop from tabbing documents
      1m 32s
    4. Panning and zooming
      3m 14s
    5. Cycling through different screen modes
      2m 13s
  11. 15m 44s
    1. Understanding file formats
      4m 36s
    2. Choosing the resolution you need
      4m 39s
    3. Understanding Resize vs. Resample
      4m 11s
    4. Working with print sizes and resolution
      2m 18s
  12. 32m 53s
    1. Using Undo and the History panel
      3m 7s
    2. Using crop options
      3m 54s
    3. Understanding Hide vs. Delete for the Crop tool
      1m 46s
    4. Bringing back hidden pixels with Reveal All
      40s
    5. Making the canvas bigger with the Crop tool
      3m 31s
    6. Making the canvas bigger using the Relative option in the Canvas Size command
      2m 18s
    7. Using the Perspective Crop tool
      1m 27s
    8. Straightening a crooked image
      2m 29s
    9. Scaling, skewing, and rotating with Free Transform
      5m 46s
    10. Making nondestructive transformations with Smart Objects
      2m 34s
    11. Warping images
      2m 48s
    12. Preserving important elements with Content-Aware Scale
      2m 33s
  13. 30m 41s
    1. Exploring layer basics
      11m 16s
    2. Loading, selecting, and transforming layers
      8m 4s
    3. Organizing layers using layer groups
      5m 3s
    4. Merging, rasterizing, and flattening layers
      6m 18s
  14. 43m 11s
    1. Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
      5m 43s
    2. Combining selections
      4m 4s
    3. Converting a selection into a layer mask
      5m 29s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool
      4m 35s
    5. Selecting soft-edged objects using Refine Edge
      9m 42s
    6. Touching up a layer mask with the Brush tool
      7m 22s
    7. Changing the opacity, size, and hardness of the painting tools
      3m 17s
    8. Blending images with a gradient layer mask
      2m 59s
  15. 34m 36s
    1. Introducing adjustment layers
      3m 47s
    2. Starting with a preset
      2m 18s
    3. Improving tonal quality with Levels
      5m 31s
    4. Increasing midtone contrast with Curves
      6m 44s
    5. Removing a color cast with Auto Color
      2m 30s
    6. Changing the color temperature with Photo Filter
      2m 29s
    7. Shifting colors with Hue/Saturation
      4m 41s
    8. Making washed-out colors pop with Vibrance
      2m 48s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      1m 47s
    10. Controlling which layers are affected by an adjustment layer
      2m 1s
  16. 19m 33s
    1. Adjusting shadows and highlights
      5m 44s
    2. Replacing color using Selective Color
      3m 49s
    3. Using fill layers to create a hand-painted look
      6m 5s
    4. Using a gradient fill layer to add a color wash
      3m 55s
  17. 52m 9s
    1. Removing blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush and the Patch tool
      12m 42s
    2. De-emphasizing wrinkles with the Healing Brush
      4m 52s
    3. Smoothing skin and pores with the High Pass filter
      6m 19s
    4. Making teeth bright and white with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      3m 21s
    5. Brightening eyes with Curves
      7m 0s
    6. Taming flyaway hair with the Patch tool
      3m 44s
    7. Removing unwanted details with Content-Aware Fill
      5m 49s
    8. Body sculpting with Liquify
      8m 22s
  18. 24m 12s
    1. Creating panoramas with Photomerge and Auto-Blend
      4m 48s
    2. Combining multiple frames in an action sequence
      8m 44s
    3. Swapping heads in a family portrait
      10m 40s
  19. 38m 26s
    1. Overview of filters
      2m 52s
    2. Applying filters nondestructively using Smart Filters
      5m 18s
    3. Creating a soft glow with the Gaussian Blur filter
      3m 35s
    4. Creating an infrared look with Diffuse Glow
      2m 14s
    5. Adding noise with the Add Noise filter
      6m 27s
    6. Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask
      5m 11s
    7. Giving an image texture with the Texturizer filter
      1m 49s
    8. Using the Field, Iris, and Tilt-Shift Blurs
      6m 1s
    9. Creating a painting with the Oil Paint filter
      1m 34s
    10. Applying a filter to multiple layers
      3m 25s
  20. 22m 16s
    1. Cycling through the blending modes
      6m 42s
    2. Adding a lens flare effect with Screen
      2m 40s
    3. Scanning or photographing paper to add a deckled edge
      3m 1s
    4. Making a cast shadow more realistic with Multiply
      5m 21s
    5. Sharpening an image with High Pass and Overlay
      2m 26s
    6. Adding a realistic off-center vignette
      2m 6s
  21. 20m 9s
    1. Exploring character (point) type
      7m 6s
    2. Adding paragraph (area) type
      3m 38s
    3. Adding type on a path
      4m 44s
    4. Clipping an image inside type
      3m 3s
    5. Warping type
      1m 38s
  22. 15m 57s
    1. Adding a drop shadow effect
      6m 15s
    2. Adding edges, textures, and color overlays using layer styles
      4m 27s
    3. Creating a transparent logo or watermark
      2m 42s
    4. Knowing how and when to scale layer effects
      2m 33s
  23. 15m 45s
    1. Creating contact sheets
      2m 49s
    2. Using the Output workspace in Bridge
      5m 32s
    3. Exporting web photo galleries
      4m 20s
    4. Saving for the web
      3m 4s
  24. 23m 38s
    1. Working with video clips
      9m 29s
    2. Adding special effects to video
      5m 45s
    3. Adding pans and zooms to still images
      8m 24s
  25. 1m 10s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 10s

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Photoshop CS6 Essential Training
10h 30m Beginner Apr 26, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Photoshop CS6 Essential Training, Julieanne Kost demonstrates how to produce high-quality images in a short amount of time, using a combination of Adobe Photoshop CS6, Bridge, and Camera Raw.

The course details the Photoshop features and creative options, and shows efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, the course explores techniques for nondestructive editing and compositing using layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more.

Topics include:
  • Organizing images in Bridge
  • Adding metadata such as copyrights and keywords
  • Editing in Camera Raw versus in Photoshop
  • Retouching in Camera Raw
  • Batch processing files
  • Customizing the Photoshop workspaces
  • Choosing a file format and resolution
  • Cropping, scaling, and rotating images
  • Working with layers, including merging and flattening layers
  • Creating selections and layer masks
  • Toning and changing the color of images
  • Adjusting shadows and highlights
  • Retouching and cloning
  • Creating panoramas from multiple images
  • Adding filters and sharpening
  • Working with blend modes
  • Adding type
  • Working with video in Photoshop CS6
Subjects:
Photography Raw Processing
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Julieanne Kost

Increasing midtone contrast with Curves

As I've mentioned before, if your workflow starts in Bridge and you're opening your raw files or your JPEG files into Adobe Camera Raw, you want to make as many of your global adjustments and corrections to your tonal values and your color values in Camera Raw. You want to do that at the beginning of your workflow. If however you find yourself in Photoshop, and you need to make another correction, especially if you need to make a local correction, then Photoshop has a ton of powerful tools in order for you to do that. I think one of the most powerful tools has got to be the Curves adjustment layer.

I'll click on that in the Adjustments panel in order to add it. Now the Curves adjustment layer does many of the same adjustments that your Levels adjustment layer does, but the Curves adjustment layer is much more powerful. If you wanted to set your Black point and your White point using curves, you would use the blank triangle in the lower left and the white triangle in the lower right. So I can immediately see that this image is lacking in the blacks. There are no black values that are darker than this point in my Histogram.

So I'm going to click-and-drag on that Black slider, until it just reaches underneath the first area in my Histogram. Now one of the things that I didn't mention when we were talking about Levels is that you can see a preview of exactly the values that you're going to clip to either pure black or pure white. If you hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on Windows and you start dragging this slider. Now it might be a little confusing at first, because what you might see is not pure black, you might see these other colors, and that's because all of your RGB images that you open in Photoshop are made up of three different channels.

So what this visual reference is showing you is that one of those channels is being clipped. As you see more colors then more of the channels are being clipped. It's not until you actually see black overlaid on top of your image, that all three channels are being clipped at once. So you definitely don't want to go so far that you see black, and then it's up to you. It's really an aesthetic question, as to whether or not you want to clip your image in any of the channels. So I want to show you on the Highlight side of the Histogram, we can do the same thing.

If I hold down the Option or the Alt key, by default the whole window turns black and then as I started moving the slider to the left we can start seeing the areas that are going to be clipped to pure white. So obviously we want to back off on that. Now we've set the dynamic range of the image by setting our black point and our white point. Now if you remember the Levels dialog box, there was one slider in the center that you could move to lighten your image, or darken your image. And certainly you can do that in Curves, but the power of Curves is that you can have up to 16 different points along this curve, to really refine exactly what values you want your image to be mapped to.

So for example I might want to increase my midtones, but I might want to keep my highlights down a little bit. So I'll add a second point on the curve and just pull down in my highlight area. Remember this is the lighter area of my image. Then I might also want to increase my shadows, so I could click-and-drag up on this point of the curve, or if I want to decrease my shadows I could click-and-drag down. So as you can see, you have a lot more control in curves, but you do have to be careful. Let me delete these points that I've added by simply clicking on them and tapping the Delete key, or you can click and just drag it out of the curve area.

Say you want to add an S curve to your image, to give your image a little bit more contrast. So you put a point on the curve and drag this in down, and then you place another point on the other side of the curve and drag it up. What you have to keep in mind is that wherever the slope of your curve is greater you're going to be adding more contrast. But wherever the slope of the curve decreases, you're actually going to be lessening the contrast, because there is only a certain number of values that you have to manipulate. So if you're increasing the contrast between some values, well, you have to decrease the contrast between other values.

So it's always a trade-off. I just want you to make sure that as you're moving the curve in one area, even though you might be looking at the midtones and looking at the midtones in your image, you need to be careful of the entire image. Especially right now these highlight areas, because they are going to start to lose detail and they'll start to look flat. If you really go too far, you can see what I mean. I'll pull these down a little, see how I've just lost all the detail in this area. So I'll go ahead and delete that point and we'll pull-down this other point right here.

If we want a toggle this on and off, we can click on the Eye icon, so there is before and there is after. We can see how adding that contrast really made this image more dramatic, it really actually changed the whole tone of this image. Now I think I've gone a little too far, so if I like the effect, but I want to lessen it, instead of going back into my curve I could change the Opacity of this adjustment layer to just back off of it. If I like the effect in one area, but it's too strong in another area, the other huge benefit of making this an adjustment layer is that the adjustment layer has a mask.

So if I tap the B key, the Brush tool, and I'm painting with black as my foreground color, then anywhere that I paint in this mask I will hide that adjustment. But that obviously hid too much of the adjustment. So I'll undo that, and I'm going to decrease the Opacity of my brush. I might decrease it all the way down to maybe 25% or so. That means that I can click once and drag the brush. To hide 25% of the effect, I can click again to hide a little bit more and I can slowly paint in and out the effect, where I wanted to show or be hidden.

So now you can see as I toggle the eye icon on and off, my shadows aren't getting quite as dark, but I'm still keeping all of that contrast where I want to keep it in my foreground subject. One final shortcut, I know we haven't talked about Blend modes yet, but sometimes when you make large changes to your image using either Curves or Levels, you'll notice that you get a color shift. Usually those colors become more saturated, and in this case I actually like that it brought out the green here. But if you don't want that, if you want your colors to remain truer to what they were at the beginning, you can change the Blend mode right here to Luminosity and that restricts the curve to only affect the tonal values in your image, and not make any changes to the color values.

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