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Let's begin to take a look at how we can use Curves in order to increase our work with Contrast and Tone and Color Saturation. Now, here we have this wonderful sunrise photo that I captured down at the beach. I love how the light is caught on those clouds up top. Yet, what we need to do as photographers is to develop that discerning eye which is this is good, but it could be better. There's something missing here. Maybe it's Contrast or Saturation. How then can we do that? Well Curves is a surefire way that we can begin to improve an image like this.
Well, before we talk about Curves, I want to jump back to Levels, really quickly here. You remember that when we click on the Levels Adjustment Layer icon and when we see a histogram with a gap in it, what we can do is we can click and drag our two sliders, which will then apply this accordion stretch to the histogram, and it will give us this nice contrast and tone. We can do the same thing in Curves. I am going to delete this layer, and then I am going to click on the Adjustment Layer icon and select Curves. Or I am going to click on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel. Well, either way, you can see again that the histogram has some clipping here.
Let's go ahead and open up the Histogram, so we can see this as well. I'll select Histogram and again, you can see that gap there even more clearly. What we are going to is we are going to click and drag our black slider and click and drag our white slider in, in order to create this new look here which gives us this really rich, deep blacks and also this nice, bright white. From here, what we can do is we can go to our midtones, or for that matter anywhere on this line, and we can go ahead and make a few little, subtle adjustments.
Again, all that I want to do is just brighten this up a bit, and then I am going to back off my blacks just a touch there. I think I went a little bit too far, a little bit overkill on that. Let's look at our before and after. Here we have before and then after. You can see how the Histogram is now updated. Now, in this case you may be thinking okay well, we don't have this pure, deep, deep black. Well, that's okay. I do have some black with detail down in here, and also some white with detail. So, this kind of adjustment will really improve this image and even more, I can then reproduce it, because I do have a little bit of space here on each side.
So, you don't always need to delete the space. Yet, that being said, of course with making these type of subjective edits, it's completely up to your own preference, or your own taste, in regards to how much Contrast, or Color Saturation, you actually want to add. So, one of the things that you want to doing is to begin to experiment with adjustments like this. Take a look at how they work with your images. What you'll soon discover is that it will look like there is almost foggy glass or plastic or something on top of your image when you make this adjustment.
It's like cleaning the window and looking through and all of a sudden seeing the image that was a little but buried there. It, all of a sudden, pops and snaps, and it really becomes a much more strong image.
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