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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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