The Even Easier Curves Adjustment

If you're like many of us, Photoshop's Curves Adjustment can seem a place you really don't want to hang out in.  Even though we know it can be a cool place to hang and can offer great image solutions, even save images from the oblivion of the trash can.  Yet for some reason, we're hesitant to venture into that world of Curves.  Hesitant that is until now, 'cause today we're going in and I promise we won't come near or even touch a line on that graph.  Really, we won't.  So let's go and here's the image we're going to work on.  

Taken under an awning and obviously in the shade at Pike Place in Seattle.  A bit flat and dull and I'd like to bring it to life as it could (with some work) become an image I might want to print on canvas or paper, so are you ready?  

Step One

Let's open a new adjustment layer...Curves.  In CS6 just click up above on the Curves Adjustment Layer or go up to Image > Adjustment > Curves.

See those three eyedroppers I've got circled on the left side of the adjustment screen.  The top one is your Black Point sampler, the middle is Grey and the bottom is your White Point sampler.

Step Two

Okay, keeping my promise not to touch the lines and graph, let's instead click on the middle or Grey eyedropper.  Once you've click on that, it's time to sample a nice even grey tone on the image.  In this case we're going to use the sidewalk (lower left) and using the eyedropper, I clicked where that red circle is.  By the way, for anyone reading this in the States, this is the way we crazy Canadians spell grey.

Once we click on that, we're telling Photoshop that this represents the standard 18% grey and in response, Photoshop alters all the colours in order to match what you have said is grey.  Just like white balance but we're using grey instead.  KInd of cool the way it does it and involves a lot more math then I ever could manage.

Step Three

Not sure how much you can see on these screenshots but that one click warmed the image up and in doing so, seemed to provide a bit more definition to our street musicians.  But it needs more.  So instead of sticking around in Curves how about we go back to Levels and apply some of that Magic 10?

Click Levels > Preset (if you did the earlier lesson) > Magic 10

If you didn't read the blog on Levels, just change your black point to 10 and your white point to 245.

Nice but it could still use just a touch more punch, so I highlighted the 245 white point and changed it to 235 and voila we have added depth, colour and definition that begins to make our players the central part of the image.  Here's the before and after...


And here's the After


I hope you noticed that at no time did my hands touch anything in the line & graph section.  Not even once and yet we just used Curves to make an adjustment to an image.  And if you look closely, you'll see that a line actually moved within the graph...all on it's own!  Do this at home and you'll soon become a Curves Ninja!

So what do you think?  Willing to start using Curves to enhance your images?  









Bill McQuarrie
Bill McQuarrie


1 Comment

Opal Michel
Opal Michel

June 24, 2013

Awesome tutorial! I got great results with this trick! Thank you Bill!

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