View Full Version : Using Photoshop/Lightroom Curves?

10-15-2007, 07:31 PM

Up until recently I've been strictly a Photoshop Elements guy, and i recently (as in yesterday) downloaded Lightroom.

It presents the opportunity to work with Tonal Curves, and I'm looking at this like WHAT THE HELL ARE THOSE?

Anyone want to give me a primer on what I should be doing with Tonal Curves? I've read a bunch of tutorials, but they read like Mexican Stereo Instructions.

Thanks all,


10-15-2007, 09:40 PM
its just that, a tool to adjust the different tones, the best way to see for yourself just what happens, open a pic, open the curves widow, now if LR is anything like PS there should be a histogram with a line going up from the lower left corner to the upper right corner, click and drag on a point about 1/2 inch up the line from the bottom left ... now drag it and see how it affects the shot, the farther up that line, the more you adjust the lightness (top =brightness, lower= darker tones) usually you wanna try to make a nice sweeping "S" curve but it all depends on your exposure. Now, you can also adjust each color channel red, blue, green seperatly if you want. Another way to adjust curves is to use the eyedropper tool click the black eyedropper and then click a spot of your shot that is supposed to be black, then do the same with the white dropper clicking on a white area of the shot, then the middle gray dropper clicking on a neutral gray part of the shot. on alot of shots, if you adjust the curves correctly, you prolly wont need to adjust the Hue / Saturation... its a powerfull tool for controlling exposure in photos, esp in photos shot in Jpeg... (hint hint..i basically shoot jpeg)

10-15-2007, 10:15 PM
Though Zacker is spot on for the descriptions of the tool it's self, I would offer only that it KICKS ASS in RAW..



10-16-2007, 07:27 AM
lol chris. I like the curves tool more and more, every time i use it. Just have a go at it and see what it does and what makes it tick... forget tutes, alot of em are just gonna confuse you, something like this isnt written in stone and every photo is different.

10-16-2007, 07:38 AM
Hey, Well the tool that is in lightroom is in PS Bridge, for RAW/JPG. Thats the same tool as in LR. I Always use that tool.

The new PS3 book has some really good information on this tool, and as usual NAPP has several video tutorials online.


10-16-2007, 12:29 PM
cool... what book?

10-16-2007, 01:00 PM
I find that curves are nice if you need to "correct" something thats wrong with your photo, but levels are generally better (and easier) for overall enhancement. I use levels a lot, but curves very rarely.

10-16-2007, 04:42 PM
its funny cause I used level almost exclusively untill i started with curves.. lol I guess there is alot more than one way to skin a cat. I remember when I used to upload, open file in PS resize or crop, hit auto curves, auto color and auto contrast(?) and then sharpen and that was it. when did everything get so complicated.

10-17-2007, 12:15 AM
I bring this up because I've really got to get better with my post-processing. I see some other people's photos and just think, "why doesn't my stuff come out like that?"

So I'm thinking maybe my workflow, or worse yet, my understanding of some tools is flawed.

10-17-2007, 06:59 AM
could be... its tough to really get the whole workflow thing down, but if you feel your photos are lacking, at least youre on the right track...trying to better them by taking a hard look at workflow.you can join a few of the flickr photoshop groups, a good one is the photosupport group, lotsa knowledge there. But for the love of god... do NOT ask a question untill youve used the search function and are positive there is no other threads containing the info you seek...lol,lol,lol..

10-17-2007, 07:07 AM
<whack> hitting Craig in the head for that search feature comment...LOL

Hoydie what you could do if you like... is post up a picture in the processing section and have people go at it with their own version of processing and see how the end result comes up with... it may help you in seeing what you feel you arent doing correct... the best way would be to host somewhere where it will let you host full size and be able to download the image... that way we can efficiently do the processing...

10-17-2007, 09:02 AM
And to follow up on Ross's observations, do you ever use the Grey white balance tool? Do you ever shoot your digital stuff, to correct for White, Grey, Black?

I am finding this to be a SUPER tool to carry with you. The simple card, or the whole spot lens.. Depending on how rich you are.

Your already comiteed to doing this, as you are using LR or PS to do your post process work. I would recomend that you look into getting a grey card.


10-17-2007, 09:11 AM
Yeah I have to agree on the gray card as well... when you are shooting constant lighting it is a VERY serious tool in getting your colors and skin tones correct... the only thing I have a problem with is that shooting trains you are out in sometimes quickly changing light... so for my most part I shoot in Cloudy WB... and adjust using levels...

10-17-2007, 09:57 AM
cool... what book?

Sorry, I didn't see this before. LOL


This book is by Scott Kelby. I really like how he writes his books, they are not your traditional boring books. He does entertain you, and though silly at some points, he does make reading a lot more entertaining in his work.

This book covers 100% of Photoshop Bridge. Which can edit RAW (.CR2 files) or JPG. Files.

It is designed to simply replace what ever software came with your camera. Lightroom 1.1 has ALL of these tools. Bridge is a modual of Photoshop, and its availible for download. It requires Photoshop however so you must own photoshop, in order to use this application.

Anyways this book cover ALL of the features of the controls for digital photography. The book shows tons of new examples of before and after post process work BEFORE it goes into Photoshop.

it allows you to rate browse,rate images,Add or remove meta data, and of course disucces white balance, the use of the Curves and the Tonal tools.

Bridge came out as a hidden plugin, from CS, and CS2 but it had little information on it. This book covers Bridge directly.

Bridge is not the middle tool, it is THE tool. For your first manipulation process, and cleanup.

So for example I shoot a model (as you know I usualy do) I will clean cut the image and adjust the color, set the temprature of the shot. Because Bridge reads the RAW data file and adjusts acordingly from the data collected from the camera. So if you did a quick dark shot, in RAW everything is captured. If you shot it in JPG less information was collected.

Once I do all my tonal/exposure adjustments, I click on ACCEPT, and it brings it into Photoshop.

Now I go after using THOSE tools to remove zits & blemishes, and work the full glamor effects that I want to push in my piece.

This is where I found that I had more control of my postwork, and that I could complete my work faster.

Though I am experimenting still with other techiques. I have discovered that my old Trinitron Monitor is really wandering off. (After 12 years) its time I get a new Monitor. As my colors are drifiting.. But if I never had Bridge, I would have never noticed it before now. :Hammer

Anyways.. thats a basic overview, your workflow will go much smoother, once you Post process your images in Bridge, then into Photoshop.


10-17-2007, 10:06 AM
ohhhhhh another Kelby book... Barnes and Nobles here I come... hes about the best author when it comes to "real speak" on both photography and processing...