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The Curves adjustment in Adobe Photoshop has a reputation for being challenging for some photographers. In this workshop, Photoshop expert Tim Grey takes you step by step through every aspect of the Curves adjustment, helping you truly understand the concepts behind it so that you can quickly and easily maximize tonal range, optimize contrast, and enhance your photos' color balance. Note: This course was recorded in Photoshop CS5, but was created with users of both Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS4 in mind.
One of the most common frustrations for photographers who fIrst get started with curves is that the colors in their images start to become very problematic very quickly. While a proper approach to the use of curves can help avoid this problem, there is a way to avoid it altogether, as I'll show you in this lesson. Now in this case, to make it a little easier to see exactly what's going on with this technique, I'm going to make a dramatic adjustment to the image. This is obviously not an adjustment I would actually normally apply to an image like this, in fact I'd probably never apply an adjustment like this to any image.
But I want to demonstrate very clearly exactly what's going on, both with a problematic curves adjustment, and with a way to avoid this problem. In this case I've actually applied some sections of the curve that invert the image, which causes some very dramatic changes in the color within the image. But even with relatively subtle adjustments, you can see some slight color shifts within the image when you're working with curves. Fortunately, avoiding that problem is incredibly simple. All you need to do is change the blend mode for your curves adjustment from the default, which is normal, to the luminosity blend mode.
When you choose the luminosity blend mode for an adjustment layer, that adjustment layer can only affect the tonality, the luminance within the image. It cannot alter the actual color values. Therefore, the color will not be shifted, but the appearance of the image in terms of tonality will still be applicable. So I'll chose the luminosity blend mode and as you can see the image does not look very good cause I've applied a very exaggerated and odd adjustment but as you can see only the tonality is effected. The original colors are still there, they've just been altered in terms of their brightness, their luminance.
And as I continue applying perhaps even more dramatic adjustments, you'll see that only the brightness values change. Taking things to even more of an extreme, I could even invert this image and as you can see, instead of getting just a negative image that includes both color shifts and tonal shifts I'm retaining the original colors while inverting the luminants. The shadows look bright instead of dark and the areas that had been relatively bright are now quite dark. When you're familiar with the use of curves and remember to utilize smooth and subtle adjustments for the anchor points, chances are you won't see significant color shifts within the image.
But by using the luminosity blend mode for the curves adjustment layer, you'll ensure that, that adjustment will only affect the overall brightness and contrast of an image, and thus can be confident that no problematic color shifts have occurred.
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