Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Refining overall tonality, part of Enhancing a Photograph in Photoshop: Abandoned Farmhouse.
After processing my raw image to bring it into Photoshop, one of the first things I'll tend to focus on is overall tonal adjustments. To be sure, I did adjust tonality within Adobe Camera Raw, but I do want to fine-tune things just a little bit. I've also already cropped and straightened the image, so this seems to be a good time to focus on that overall exposure. I feel like I could use a little bit more contrast in this image. The clouds could probably use a lot of contrast, but I'll consider applying a targeted adjustment that only affects the sky a little bit later.
But even for the overall photo, not really taking the sky into account specifically, but just the general tonality, I feel that a little bit more contrast, and especially a little more density in the darker values, would help improve the appearance of the image. And for that adjustment, I'm going to apply a curves adjustment layer. So, at the bottom of the layers panel, I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button, that's the half black, half white circle icon. And from the pop-up menu that appears, I'll choose Curves. That will add a curves adjustment layer, and it will also give me the controls for the curves adjustment on the properties panel.
Generally speaking, with curves I would start off by adjusting the black and white points. But if I hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, and adjust the white point, you'll see that I already have a small degree of clipping, and bringing that value in at all is going to just cause more clipping. And we'll see a similar thing for the black point, although not any clipping initially, just a very small degree of clipping as we increase the value for blacks. So I'll back off just a little bit, but I will bring that black point in just a hair so that we have a very minor degree of clipping in the darkest areas of the photo.
But that will also give us a little bit better sense of contrast in the image. But I also think that the overall midtones and maybe slightly darker than midtone values in the image could use to be darkened up just a little bit. So I'll go ahead and add an anchor point to the curve just by clicking on the curve over toward the left side, over toward the darkest values of the image. And then I'll click and drag downward in order to darken up the image, focusing my adjustment on the darkest portions of the photo. I'll move over the to left, actually, to emphasize the adjustment on an even darker range of values. And I think right about there is looking pretty good. We've added some density, we've added some contrast, darkening up the overall image with an emphasis on the midtones and darker. But I do think that I'll brighten up the brighter areas of the photo, perhaps somewhere around a midtone or slightly brighter value and upward. I'll just brighten up a little bit.
Which is actually not brightening relative to the original values, but rather is just reducing the amount of darkening being applied. So for the midtones and darker, we have a relatively strong amount of darkening. Not a huge amount of darkening, but enough to make a visible difference. But for the brighter values, we've left those pixels relatively untouched. I'll go ahead and turn off the visibility for the curve's adjustment layer, so that we can see the before version, and then I'll turn that adjustment layer back on to see the after version. And I am happier with this density, with this slight increase in contrast, with the slight darkening of those midtone and darker tonal values within the image.
- Reviewing the images
- Evaluating and opening the selected image
- RAW processing
- Fine-tuning adjustments
- Achieving an older look