Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Simplifying the tone curve, part of Enhancing an Urban Landscape Photo with Lightroom and Photoshop.
Earlier in this course, we made some changes to the tonal values in this image here in the tone section of the basic panel. To get more granular about our tonal adjustments, we can also use the Tone Curve panel on top of the adjustments that we made in the basic panel. I'm going to open the Tone Curve panel, by clicking its header. And there are two views of the Tone Curve panel. This is the simplified view, and the one where I suggest you work. Just you know, there is this other view if you're a more advanced user. And you can access that by clicking this icon here, at the bottom right of the tone curve panel.
In this advanced view, you can put your own points on the curve and drag them as you like. You also can come down and even access the color curves in the individual color channels. But we're going to go back to the simplified view of the Tone Curve panel by clicking this icon. Now up here, we have a diagram of the curve and this line represents the tonal values of the image. It's almost like the Histogram tilted up. So the top part up here represents the bright tones, and then the mid-tones and then the darker areas.
But you really don't have to know that in order to use the controls in the simplified version of the Tone Curve panel. The first thing I'm going to do here is come down to the presets for the curve. The default preset is the Linear 1, the one that you see here on the image and that you see in the Tone Curve panel. There are two other choices here, Medium Contrast and Strong Contrast. Let's see what Strong Contrast does. First of all it, changed the shape of the curve so that it looks more like an S shape. It's increasing the highlights, and it's decreasing the dark areas.
And you can see that in the image. The darks are darker, the brights are brighter. And overall, the contrast is therefore stronger. But I think that's too strong on this image, so I'm going to try a different preset. Coming back to this preset menu, the Point Curve menu, and choosing Medium Contrast. Now, we have less of an extreme S shape on the curve in the Tone Curve panel, and I like the effect on the image. But I'm not done yet, because I want to fine-tune this result. What I'd like to do is open up the darker parts of this image from the mid tones down to the dark areas without having much of an effect on the brighter parts of the image.
So to do that, I'm going to use these sliders in the region area of the Tone Curve panel. I'll start with the Darks slider. If I hover over that, you can see the parts of the curve that it's going to affect most. The dark areas and the mid-tones and I'm going to drag that over to the right. Now keep your eye on the image as I do this and you'll see. Those darker and mid-tone areas get a bit lighter and reveal more detail. I like that but I also think that this has made the image look a little muddier. Because it's taken away from some of the real black, blacks.
So to make the very dark parts darker again, I'll move to the Shadow slider. You can see on the curve which parts of the tonal range are going to be most affected. The darkest areas. And then I'll take that Shadow slider, and I'll drag that slightly to the left. Maybe two about there. Now to evaluate the changes that I just made in the Tone Curve panel, I can come up to this toggle switch on the Tone Curve panel. Unfortunately, the basic panel doesn't have a toggle switch like this. But I really like using this toggle switch wherever it does appear, because it allows me to see a before and after view of just what I've done in this panel, in the Tone Curve panel.
So if I click that switch, here's how things looked before we made our Tone Curve adjustments. In other words, after we've made all the basic adjustments, but before the Tone Curve. And here's how things look now, with the basic adjustments and with the Tone Curve adjustments. So before Tone Curve, after Tone Curve. And you can see it that these changes have just made that image pop a little bit more. And you don't have to be an expert on curves to use the Tone Curve panel in this simplified way.
In this course, Jan Kabili details a collection of straightforward techniques for making urban landscapes look their best. Jan begins in Lightroom: optimizing exposure, fixing distortion problems, and making selective tonality adjustments. She also reduces noise, sharpens the photo, and shares her favorite techniques for painting with light. The course concludes with a dip into Photoshop, where Jan makes some final refinements before returning to Lightroom for output.
- Optimizing tone and color
- Sharpening and reducing noise
- Fixing perspective
- Painting with light
- Finishing the photo