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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.
There's no question that curves can be complicated, but the reality is, putting curves to use to optimize your images, doesn't need to be a challenge. As you'll see in this lesson, the On Image Adjustment capability makes curves remarkably easy to use, even for complex adjustments. The key is turn on the On Image Adjustment feature for the curves adjustment. Here I've already added a curves adjustment layer so all I need to do to get started is go to the adjustments panel and click the button to turn on the on image adjustment feature. That's the icon with the hand and the double-headed arrow pointing up and down. When I do so, moving my mouse over the image will show a circle icon on the curve in the adjustments panel.
The position of that circle on the curve represents the tonal value of the pixel directly underneath my mouse at any given time. So if I move over a dark area of the image you'll see that that circle goes toward the far left end of the curve. And if I move my mouse to a bright area of the image, you'll see that that circle goes to the far right end of the curve. And of course, as I move my mouse all around the image, you'll see that that circle changes positions almost constantly reflecting the tonal value of the pixel directly under my mouse. If I want to actually apply a change that is focused on a particular tonal value, I can simply point to the image with my mouse and then click and drag to brighten or darken the image.
Dragging upward to brighten and downward to darken. So for example if I wanted to brighten up the water here just a little bit, I could click on the water and drag upward. As you can see, an anchor point has been created for me automatically, and dragging on the image moves that anchor point up or down. I can then point to a relatively dark area of the image and click and drag downward in order to darken up that portion of the image. Of course, other portions of the curve will also be affected. So I may need to fine tune at a variety of tonal values within the image in order to produce the best effect.
For example here I might want to darken up some of the brightest areas just so that they're not getting too washed out. By using the on-image adjustment, you're able to focus on the image rather than on the curve, which means you're able to focus on what really matters to you and not worry too much about the potentially confusing curves adjustment. As a result, what might have been a challenging workflow suddenly becomes remarkably easy.
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