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Using the Curves adjustment for contrast

From: Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth

Video: Using the Curves adjustment for contrast

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.

Using the Curves adjustment for contrast

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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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth
Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth

48 video lessons · 16028 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 5m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. Using the exercise files
      59s
    3. Setting up a workspace
      3m 22s
  2. 21m 2s
    1. Creating and editing adjustment layers
      6m 38s
    2. Adjustment layers vs. direct adjustments
      6m 9s
    3. Using the new Adjustments panel
      5m 38s
    4. Reusing adjustment layers
      2m 37s
  3. 39m 57s
    1. Clipping adjustment layers
      4m 36s
    2. Including adjustment layers in a layer group
      3m 13s
    3. Including adjustment layers in a Smart Object
      7m 29s
    4. Using the adjustment layer mask
      5m 43s
    5. Using selections with adjustment layers
      4m 19s
    6. Using the Masks panel with adjustment layers
      8m 30s
    7. Using the Blend If sliders with adjustment layers
      6m 7s
  4. 49m 43s
    1. Reading the Histogram panel
      5m 23s
    2. Using the Levels adjustment for tonal corrections
      7m 42s
    3. Using the Curves adjustment for exposure
      8m 12s
    4. Using the Curves adjustment for contrast
      4m 14s
    5. Making On-Click Curves adjustments
      4m 0s
    6. Applying Shadow/Highlight nondestructively
      7m 59s
    7. Reviewing Brightness/Contrast
      3m 18s
    8. Dealing with exposure
      2m 22s
    9. Using adjustment layers with blend modes
      6m 33s
  5. 54m 36s
    1. Making Vibrance adjustments
      2m 22s
    2. Using Hue/Saturation adjustments
      7m 4s
    3. Understanding color correction
      3m 21s
    4. Using color samplers and the Info panel
      4m 25s
    5. Using Levels eyedroppers for color correction
      5m 54s
    6. Using Levels channels for color correction
      5m 7s
    7. Understanding Curves adjustments for color correction
      7m 21s
    8. Making Color Balance adjustments
      3m 49s
    9. Making Photo Filter adjustments
      3m 6s
    10. Making Variations adjustments
      6m 48s
    11. Using the auto-correction features
      5m 19s
  6. 13m 5s
    1. Using the Dodge and Burn tools
      4m 56s
    2. Dodging and burning nondestructively
      6m 38s
    3. Working with the Red-Eye tool
      1m 31s
  7. 16m 9s
    1. Applying Black & White adjustments
      7m 30s
    2. Making Channel Mixer adjustments
      6m 31s
    3. Understanding the Threshold adjustment
      2m 8s
  8. 25m 23s
    1. Colorizing with Hue/Saturation adjustments
      3m 9s
    2. Tinting with Black & White adjustments
      2m 8s
    3. Making a Gradient Map adjustment
      4m 18s
    4. Applying a Selective Color adjustment
      1m 49s
    5. Using the Replace Color adjustment
      4m 39s
    6. Making Match Color adjustments
      4m 24s
    7. Applying the Equalize adjustment
      4m 56s
  9. 42s
    1. Goodbye
      42s

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