Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

The S curve

From: Photoshop Curves Workshop

Video: The S curve

Even if you've never used curves before, if you had any exposure to Photo Shop,you've probably heard of the S curve. The thruth is, an S curve will improve just about any image because it enhances the overall contrast and contrast is generally perceived as a good thing for a photo. The s curve is named because it resembles the letter s, albeit an s that has been straightened out quite a bit. Let's go ahead and create an s curve, and then examine exactly what is happening to the image as a result. In most cases, when I'm applying a general s curve, I'll start by adding an anchor point about 20% of the way in from the black point.

The S curve

Even if you've never used curves before, if you had any exposure to Photo Shop,you've probably heard of the S curve. The thruth is, an S curve will improve just about any image because it enhances the overall contrast and contrast is generally perceived as a good thing for a photo. The s curve is named because it resembles the letter s, albeit an s that has been straightened out quite a bit. Let's go ahead and create an s curve, and then examine exactly what is happening to the image as a result. In most cases, when I'm applying a general s curve, I'll start by adding an anchor point about 20% of the way in from the black point.

I'll simply click and drag downward at that point, to darken up mostly the shadow areas of the image. I'll then move to 20% in from the white point, and click and drag upward, in order to brighten the brighter areas of the image. It's obvious just from looking at the image that contrast has been increased. The darks are a little darker, and the brights are a little brighter. Let's take a look at exactly what's happening within the curve. The mid-tone region, the central area of the curve has been increased in steepness, which means we're increasing contrast for those mid-tones. But then the curve tapers off and actually the end points of the curve, the highlight range and the shadow range, are less steep than the original curve. That means we've actually reduced contrast in the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights.

You wouldn't normally think that you want to reduce contrast, and really, I don't think of this as reducing contrast in any area of the image. Rather, I think of it as tapering off my increase in contrast so that we're not sacrificing shadow or highlight detail in the process. This is one of the things that makes curves tremendously better then the levels adjustment. With levels the only way we can increase contrast is to bring in the black or white points. Bring those black or white points in too far, and you're losing detail in the image.

With an S curve, we can increase contrast without sacrificing any inforamtion at all. Nearly every image I have ever adjusted in Photoshop gets some form of an s curve applied to it. Quite simply, just about any photograph will benefit from at leas a slight increase in mid-tone contrast. And the s curve provides that mid-tone contrast, without a loss of highlight or shadow detail. The s curve really is a beautiful thing that can add to the beauty of your photos.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Curves Workshop
Photoshop Curves Workshop

30 video lessons · 1011 viewers

Tim Grey
Author

 

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ.

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now "Already a member? Log in

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed Photoshop Curves Workshop.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferencesfrom the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

No

Your file was successfully uploaded.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.