Curves are hard to use.

Started Apr 25, 2014 | Discussions thread
NikonNature Senior Member • Posts: 2,757
Re: Curves are hard to use. blend modes

machoman wrote:

I've gone back and tried Curves again -'s not working for me. Changing the blend mode to luminosity did improve things slightly but it's still yucky. i've tried everything - using the arrows, nudging them slightly (trust me - my S curve is very very mild - anything more and it looks terrible) but still Levels wins hands down on ease of use and also ultimately the quality speaks for Levels.

extra info - i'm editing on the soft proof copy as it gives me the best paper/screen match.

I'm giving up on curve and will use Levels as my main contrast tool.

Preparation for printing should be your last step. You should start with the original, preferably RAW, file.

If you have a RAW file, try adjust highlights and shadows in the RAW converter (2nd tab in ACR). Then when you get the image in Photoshop make a duplicate layer and do a shadow/highlights adjustments.

As someone mentioned, if the histogram shows a gap on the far left or right, then use a Levels adjustment to deal with that (but keep in mind that every image may not need deep shadows or bright highlights).

Next, if you feel it needs more contrast, then do a Curves adjustment layer. Note that you can target a specific channel (R,G,or B) with your curve. And using a mask, you can restrict how the curve is applied to various parts of the image. You can further temper the effects using the opacity slider for that layer.

There is also another more advanced technique that is worth learning, which uses Luminosity Masks. You would have to Google/YouTube it for a tutorial, but it basically calculates a range of tones - highlights, mid-tones, shadows and saves it as a channel. You can then use that channel as a pre-made mask for any adjustment layer. They work particularly well with curves. So in practice, you could create a curves layer that only targets mid-tones (for example).

The bottom line is that post processing is just like photography - you will never stop learning. Don't give up on curves, just keep trying and learn as you go.

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