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In the last movie I showed you how to use a Curves adjustment layer to adjust the exposure of an image. But that's not the only way that you can change the tonality of an image with Curves. You can also adjust the contrast of an image, which is the difference between the bright tones and the dark tones in the image. This photograph actually needs both an exposure adjustment and a contrast adjustment, so I'm going to add more than one Curves adjustment layer. I'm working here in my Adjustments workspace by the way, which does not include the Histogram panel, because I need room to show you both the Adjustments panel and the Layers panel. I'll start by going to the Adjustments panel, and clicking the Curves icon to add the first Curves adjustment layer to the Layers panel.
Then I'm going to go to the Adjustments panel. I'm going to click the Expand View icon so I have a better of the Curves adjustment panel. I'll use this first Curves adjustment layer just to increase the exposure in this image. So I'll click on the approximate mid point of the curve, right here, and I'll drag up. That increases the exposure of the entire image. Then I'm going to go down to the Layers panel, I'm going to give a name to this Curves adjustment layer, since I'm going to have more than one adjustment layer. I'll Double-click the default name, Curves 1, and I'm going to type exposure curve instead. Then I'll click off that editing area, and I'm going to go up to the Adjustments panel, click the green arrow at the bottom of that panel to go back to icon view, and I'm going to add a second Curves adjustment layer.
To do that, I'll go back to the Curves icon and click it again. You can see that there is now a second Curves adjustment layer in the Layers panel, I'll give that one a name by Double-clicking its default name, I'll type contrast curve, then I'll click off of that text editing block. With the contrast curve adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, I'm going to go back up to the Adjustments panel, and here I'm going to use this graph that's part of the Curves adjustment display, to figure out where to place a couple of points on my curve.
My graph is set to show 10% intervals. If yours isn't, you can go up to the Adjustments panels menu here, and choose Curve Display Options, and in the Curve Display Options dialog box, make sure that this icon is selected, rather than this one, which gives you a three quarter view graph. So I've got the 10% graph selected, I'll click OK. I use this graph to come into about the second of the intersection lines, and I'm going to click on the curve right there, to set a point in the light area of the curve. Then I'll go down to the dark area of the curve, and I'll set a point at that second intersection line down there. I've got that dark point selected, so I'll use that to darken the shadows in the image.
I'm going to hold down the Shift key on my key board and press the down arrow to move that point down below the baseline curve. Then I'm going to go up to the other control point, I'll click on it carefully to avoid moving it, and I'm going to hold the Shift key and click the up arrow on my keyboard. Now that's a pretty strong adjustment, so I might want to come in and tweak that. I can select either of these points, and move them up or down or to the left or right to adjust this S curve. You'll notice that the middle portion of the S curve is the steepest part of the curve, and where curve is steepest, you get the most increase in contrast.
So what a traditional S curve does is increase contrast in the mid-tones while anchoring down or leaving alone the white point and black point in the image. To get a before and after view of this adjustments, I'm going to go down to the Layers panel and turn off the two adjustment layers. So that's where I started. That's where I was after the exposure curve, and here is where I'm with both Curves. Because I've set these up as adjustment layers, I can fine-tune either one of these adjustments. So for example, if I think that the contrast curve is too intense, I can go to the Opacity slider at the top of the Layers panel, and with the contrast curve layer selected I can reduce the opacity of that adjustment.
So that's another look into the power and flexibility of Curves, which you can use not only to adjust image exposure, but also image contrast, and as I'll show you in later chapter, image color.
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