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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
This movie we will be working on the file s_curve.psd. You can find that in the Chapter 18 folder. Let's go ahead and double click that one to open it up in Photoshop. F go to Full Screen View mode and then reposition the image. Now, what I want to do here is simply click on the Adjustment Layer icon for Curves. That will then open up my Curves dialog and it will create an Adjustment Layer above the image here. Now, currently I have a four-by-four grid. I want a little bit more of a detailed view here, so I'm going to hold down the Option key on a Mac/Alt key on a PC and click on that grid and now I have a ten-by-ten view. Now, this view is a little bit cramped for me so I'll click on the icon to expand that panel.
So I can really focus in on the task at hand. Now what I'm interested in doing here is increasing the contrast and color saturation. So let's talk a little bit about Curves. We have this line that goes from bottom to top. Now if this line is really steep, it will increase the contrast. So I'm going to go ahead and click on my top point to bring that in and then click on my bottom point and bring that in. So here we can see we have an increased contrast and color saturation. It doesn't look very good. What I want to do here is deconstruct how this works. Now let's flatten out a curve a little bit. So I'll make this much more flat, okay the image is much more muted and the colors are almost completely gone.
Well, let's bring it back to normal, so I'll go ahead and drag those points back to normal. So knowing how that works, if I click and drag in my whites up here and then click and drag in my shadows down here, I'm creating a steepening effect right here in this area of the curve. So, my blacks will become blacker, my whites will become whiter and I'm increasing the overall contrast and saturation. Now, in order to see the before and after this is a great shortcut key, press the Backslash key and hold it -- and here is why it's great, it's the same shortcut that you use in Lightroom to see your before and after. And let go of the Backslash to see the after and the effect that we should see is that it looks like we are lifting a sheet of Saran wrap, right off the image, and the image looks so much better.
Now the only one thing that I want to talk about in this movie is once you have created one adjustment, you can actually add more Curves Adjustments to your image. So in this case, I'll go ahead and click back to the list of Adjustments, click on another adjustment for the Curves Adjustments. This time I'm going to go ahead and just darken the overall image, all right there we go. And then I'll bring up the blacks so that I want those to be quite so dark. Now let's see our before and after with this curve, press and hold the Backslash key; there is before, just adding a little bit more density to the file. Okay, well let's go ahead and close the Adjustments Layer for a second and look at our Curves down here. Here is our before, there is our first adjustment that looks good and then there is our second adjustment -- all right, that one was great because it actually brought back some really important detail. And we can continue to see our before and after.
Now, once we brought back this detail, let's say we want to increase the contrast at this level, well no big deal. Go back to Adjustments, click on the icon to go back to your list of Adjustments and then choose Curves. And I'm just going to brighten this one up and then darken it and then click to close that and double click Adjustments to close it. Let's look at our before and after there, before and after. So again we are building this up, we have one adjustment here, another one and then yet another one to create that final effect. The nice thing about curves is you can continually modify them. They are non-destructive. You can modify the layer opacity. I'll pull that back. Just a little bit of contrast on top of that, right. And you also can stack them; you can have multiple Curves Adjustments. Well, that been said, do you always have multiple Curves Adjustments? Well no, not at all. Sometimes it just takes one Curves Adjustment and you get into the fine details of that particular Curves Adjustment. Yet other times it may be handy to have multiples adjustments.
All right, well that wraps up our first conversation about Curves.
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