Photoshop Insider Training: Enhancing Photos
Illustration by Richard Downs

Video: Using Curves

Photoshop can be an intimidating application and I think the most intimidating feature in Photoshop is Curves. The whole idea of wrangling a diagonal line to yield a proper exposure is pretty foreign to people. The first place that I want to show you how Curves work and how easy they can be is in Camera RAW. And again, I could pass a JPEG, a TIFF or a RAW file through here and Curves work a little differently in here. We've taken the familiar diagonal line over the Histogram, but we've wired it to sliders that mean something to all users.
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  1. 7m 53s
    1. Welcome
      2m 29s
    2. Using the exercise files
      42s
    3. What you need to know about Adobe Camera Raw
      4m 42s
  2. 9m 30s
    1. Reinventing the Crop tool
      5m 44s
    2. Using the new Crop tool the old way
      3m 46s
  3. 6m 4s
    1. Then versus now: Understanding how the Auto button works
      2m 55s
    2. Exploring strategies for using Auto
      3m 9s
  4. 6m 37s
    1. Using Curves
      3m 31s
    2. Exploring strategies for using Curves
      3m 6s
  5. 14m 57s
    1. Looking at sharpening
      2m 6s
    2. Understanding Smart Sharpen
      4m 41s
    3. Understanding the role of Smart Objects in a sharpening workflow
      2m 20s
    4. Applying brush-based selective sharpening
      5m 50s
  6. 9m 6s
    1. Understanding the challenges of building blur
      2m 54s
    2. Using Iris Blur to create shallow depth of field
      6m 12s
  7. 8m 20s
    1. The evolving Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools
      6m 24s
    2. Understanding the role of the graphics tablet
      1m 56s
  8. 12m 33s
    1. Understanding and using Content-Aware Fill
      3m 16s
    2. What to do when Content-Aware Fill doesn't work
      2m 38s
    3. Beyond fill: Content-Aware Patch
      1m 16s
    4. Content-Aware Scale: The feature nobody knows about
      3m 30s
    5. Content-Aware Move: Recomposing photos
      1m 53s
  9. 3m 17s
    1. Exploring what Liquify is really used for
      3m 17s
  10. 12m 1s
    1. Correcting automatically based on lens profiles
      4m 2s
    2. Getting the most out of Adaptive Wide Angle
      4m 47s
    3. Exploring lens distortion and video
      3m 12s
  11. 7m 22s
    1. Using presets new and old
      47s
    2. Surprising yourself with the Color Look Up Adjustment layer
      2m 15s
    3. Using gradient map presets for black-and-white conversions
      2m 31s
    4. Imagining a connected Photoshop
      1m 49s
  12. 15s
    1. Goodbye
      15s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop Insider Training: Enhancing Photos
1h 37m Intermediate Sep 05, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Photoshop senior product manager Bryan O'Neil Hughes takes you on an insider's tour of the key photo-enhancement features in Adobe Photoshop CS6, providing details on how they work, background into their evolution, and insights into how to use them more effectively.

The course begins with an exploration of Photoshop features that make changes to an entire image: the Crop tool, the Auto button that's present in many adjustment dialog boxes, and the Curves panel options. Next, Bryan explores sharpness and blur. Each has its place in a photograph, and Bryan details how the sharpening and blur features work and how to get the most out of them.

The course also looks at adjusting specific areas of an image with the Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools, and at the growing array of content-aware features in Photoshop, showing how they work and what to do when they don't work. The course concludes with a tour of the powerful Liquify filter, features for correcting lens distortion, and the world of presets that allow you to apply settings with a single click.

Topics include:
  • Reinventing the Crop tool
  • Rediscovering the Auto button
  • Getting the most out of curves
  • Understanding Smart Sharpen
  • Building blur and softness
  • Working with a graphics tablet
  • Using Content-Aware Fill, Scale, and Move effectively
  • Correcting distortion automatically based on lens profiles
  • Using presets
Subject:
Photography
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Bryan O'Neil Hughes

Using Curves

Photoshop can be an intimidating application and I think the most intimidating feature in Photoshop is Curves. The whole idea of wrangling a diagonal line to yield a proper exposure is pretty foreign to people. The first place that I want to show you how Curves work and how easy they can be is in Camera RAW. And again, I could pass a JPEG, a TIFF or a RAW file through here and Curves work a little differently in here. We've taken the familiar diagonal line over the Histogram, but we've wired it to sliders that mean something to all users.

So for instance, if I want to take the Dark area of this image and make it darker, I just pull that slider to the left. If I want to make the Light area and make it lighter, I pull that slider to the right, and I see that I've built a nice S shaped curve, which introduces contrast. So this is really easy to work with and I can apply it to multiple images really quickly. One of the things that I hear when I show this to people is that's really great but there's not enough control, I need more than just four sliders. So I want to show you a quick trick here.

The first thing I want to do is reset this and a great tip for Photoshop and Camera RAW is hold the Alt or Opt key and it changes the Cancel button into a Reset button, so we can start over here and you'll notice we've got these little controls at the bottom of the histogram and if I pull the one on the left, which is my Shadows, all the way over and I pull the one on the right, which is the Highlights all the way over. Now these sliders aren't mapped to 25 stops, they're mapped to 10, which is to say that my Highlights are much more precise.

If I make those darker I'm only affecting a little bit of the histogram. If I make the Shadows darker, I'm only affecting the darkest regions, and so now I can play around a bit more with the middle portion. So you can move around those quadrants and make the sliders work the way you want them to. So that's how Curves work in Camera RAW and it's the same for Lightroom. You could also use a Point Curve which is similar to Photoshop, but show you that, let's look at how we've changed Curves in Photoshop.

So I'm going to come over here to my Adjustment panel and select Curves and I'll get that same familiar interface with the histogram of the diagonal line and we've talked about Auto before, this is one of the easiest ways to just get a quick start on our image here. The other thing that we could do here is we could choose one of our Presets, so we've got all these different presets. If I want to get that same Strong Contrast or S shape curve, I can just click on that and I get that really quickly. Now with any of these presets, I can grab an individual point and play around with that.

I can pull that around and change the result a bit, and I start to understand how these are working. I think the most powerful and one of the least known ways to work with Curves intuitively is to use this On Image control. So if I were to just reset this and grab this little control right here, what that allows me to do is click on a region of the image and you can see that it's changing as I hover over and I'm just going to click on the sky and pull that down, I'm going to make that area darker.

If I click on the Shadows and pull down, it'll make that area darker. If I click on this midtone on the shed there and lift that up, it'll make that area brighter, and I can get a great result really quickly and easily, and remember, as with any of these, I can come in here and save my presets as well.

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