Making adjustments with the Curves tool
Making adjustments with the Curves tool
For the longest time, when people talked about Aperture, especially compared to Photoshop, they go "Yeah, it's nice, but it doesn't have Curves." There are some people that really feel that Curves is the best way to make exposure adjustments. And after you look at the Curves adjustment brick here in Aperture, which is new to Aperture 3, you may agree with them. So, let's take a look. Now the first thing I'm going to tell you is that you need to have the current processing of your RAW files in order to use this new Curves adjustment.
Here is the image that we worked on with Levels. I have a companion shot that we're going to work on in Curves. Actually, if you look at the Metadata when you do the Exercise Files, those of you that get the Exercise Files, I will put in the caption what each was adjusted with so you'll know. So, let's get to Curves, because there is a little bit here for us to look at. So, we pull up our image. I'm going to go ahead and hit the V key one more time, so we've got a nice big image to work with.
I am going to go to Adjustments, and we're going to find Curves. There is our Curves brick. This looks very familiar, I'm sure, to those of you that use Curves in Photoshop. There are a lot of similarities here. If you have been using Curves, you can go ahead and pretty much use this Curves adjustment brick the same way that you have been. It functions virtually the same way. However, as you might imagine, Apple has added a few goodies for us.
I'm going to show you the goodies because, for me anyway, they really enhanced my Curves experience. First thing you'll notice up here at the top is that we have a couple of Auto buttons. Now these are virtually the same kind of Auto buttons that we had in Levels. This first one here is Auto Curves combined button. What that means is that it will make a Curves adjustment based on the luminance, the overall luminance of the photograph. So, it's just looking at the tonal values and nothing else.
Next to it, we have the Auto Curves Separate button. To me, this is the more interesting one because what Aperture will do here is it will actually make a separate Curves adjustment for each of the three channels: red, green and blue. So, not only do you get an Exposure adjustment where you're working with the Highlights and the Shadows and the Midtones, you also get some color correction when you use Auto Separate. So, Auto Separate is definitely a big deal here.
We're going to use it here in just a few seconds. Here, you have your channels. You have RGB, and then you can work on the separate channels if you want, very handy. Most of the time, most of the work that we're going to be doing here we'll be working in the RGB channel. Then you have Eyedroppers for black point, gray point and highlights. That allows you to set each of those areas separately. I'll show you those quickly. Then if you just want to set a point anywhere on the curve, you use this tool down here.
One other little goodie I want to show you. In Range, most of time we're going to be working in the Normal range, the range that most of us are accustomed to in Curves. They do, however, have Extended Range. Basically, what the story is on Extended is that some cameras are actually capable of capturing information, especially on the highlight and beyond the Normal Range. If your camera is able to do that, if you can capture outside the Normal range of highlight information, then Aperture can read that, and you can actually work in that range.
The way that it looks - I'll just show it to you real quick, and then we'll move on - is that here is our Normal Range, and then out here, this is the great Extended Range out here. If you have a camera that can do that, I'm sure you'll have fun playing around with that. For the rest of us, we're going to stick with Normal for the moment because believe me, there is plenty here for us Normal folk. So, let's start with the Auto Combined, and let's make our first adjustment. So, all I have to do is make sure that my channel is set to RGB and click the Auto Combined button.
We get an overall Curves adjustment that, right out of the shoot, is pretty good. That's what we had before, and there is our Auto Combined. Now, as we look at the different channels, you'll see that, just like when we looked in Levels, that nothing is really going on in the separate channels. That's because that isn't Auto Combined's thing. What Auto Combined's thing is just to work with the luminance alone, and it does a pretty good job of that. But let's try Auto Separate, because I think Auto Curves Separate is really where it's at.
So, I'm going to go ahead and reset by going to the Reset button here. Now, again, we just make sure that we're in RGB. Now we're going to do Auto Curves Separate. Click on that. You'll notice that not only do we get a Curves adjustment, but we get some color correction. There is our initial shot, and look what Auto Curves Separate does. It really, I mean right out of the shoot, we have a very nice adjustment here. We can see what it did by looking at the separate channels.
There is the adjustment that I made in the red channel, and green, and blue. You can see that what it did in the blue channel was different than what it did in the green channel. So, this is a very intelligent adjustment. I think we did a great job with this. Now, if you want to fine-tune this a little bit further, that's not a problem at all. For instance, I like this adjustment. The only thing I'd like to change a little bit is maybe open up some of these shadow areas a little bit. So, all I need to do is set a point there.
So, I'm just going to click on this to set a point. What you do is you get the loop, and then you just click on the area that you want to work on, something right about like there. And Aperture will set that point for you on the Curves. I'm just going to click on that point to activate it. Now you can drag that point around, but I think an easier way to work is to use the Up and Down arrows. It's more precise for me. So, I'm just going to use the Up Arrow just to open up that area a little bit.
If I wanted to go the opposite direction, I'd use the Down Arrow just to kind of make that darker, which is not the direction I want to go. I want to go with the Up Arrow a little bit. That's all I wanted to do, just open that up slightly. You can move this along this line by clicking and dragging. It behaves just like Curves, if you've used Curves in the past. So, let's look at where we started and here is where we are. Very nice. So, now, I just want to show you one other thing here where you actually get to set the Black Point, and the Middle Tone, and the Highlights separately and let Aperture do a Curves adjustment for you that way.
It's not quite as strong for me. Maybe I just haven't really perfected my technique here. I prefer the Auto Separate, but I want to show you this one last way to use Curves. So, I'm going to Reset. So, we'll start with the Shadows. So, I'll just find a nice dark here to do our shadow right in here. This looks dark. Then I'll go to Highlights, and find a really bright spot. Try to find the brightest highlight that you can find.
Then we'll do Midtones, find something right down here, which is very midtone-y. Now that's not bad. It's not as good, in my opinion, as when I did Auto Separate. But remember, you have the ability to add another Point. So, I'm going to click right here, and really what I want to fix is this here. I want to bring those tones down a little bit. So, we'll just add a point. And now I'm going to click on that point, and I'm going to use my Down Arrow. We'll just bring that in Range, and suddenly that method is looking pretty good, right? Because here is what we started with, and here is after we made some correction.
So, you have three really nice ways to work in Curves in addition to the standard Photoshop way. My favorite, I'm going to go ahead and hit the Reset button, is using Auto Separate, because I think Auto Separate really, just with one click, gets us the closest, and then you can fine-tune from there. But play around with this. Have fun with it. This is really a great tool, a nice addition to Aperture 3. And I hope you find the perfect method for you.
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