Sep 012011
 

The tone curve is not the most intuitive feature of Lightroom or Photoshop.  In this tutorial I will explain how to read the curve, and then how to use the basic version of it in Lightroom and Camera Raw.   Note that this is a rewrite of an old post.  If you are a Photoshop user, you will want to read the old one  (but keep in mind that the Lightroom information is out-of-date there.).

The tone curve is used to brighten or darken tones in your image.  For general image brightening and darkening, I usually start with Exposure in the Basics panel to set how bright the brightest tones in the image should be, and then I move to the Brightness slider to set overall image brightness.  Finally, I go to the Tone Curve when I want to affect just particular ranges of tones — for example, perhaps I want to brighten just the shadows or darken just the highlights in an image.  In Lightroom, it is the panel directly below the Basics Panel in the Develop Module.  In Camera Raw, it is the second symbol from the left below the histogram.

Reading the Tone Curve 

Let me first say that if at the first mention of “graphs” and “X and Y axes”, your eyes are about to glaze over, you can skip down to “Using the Basic Curve”.  You don’t have to know how to read the curve to use the basic version.  However, consider giving it a try!  If you fall asleep, I will take full responsibility — just please don’t read this while you are driving.

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Aug 232011
 

I wrote this post in early 2009, so I am sure that many of my readers haven’t seen it.  I decided to repost it because it is an important concept for digital photographers to understand.

As you may have heard, with digital, unlike film, your goal should be to expose your image as brightly as possible, without blowing out important highlights.  In other words, your histogram should be as far to the right as possible without going over the edge.  This method is now called ETTR — Expose To The Right.

What is the histogram?  It is a graph of the tones in your images, from pure black (blocked up, no detail) at the left edge, to pure white (blown out, no detail) at the right edge.

I recommend that you set your  camera to show the histogram next to the image on the LCD screen, so that you can see right away how succesful you are with your exposure.

In this case, the exposure is ok: Continue reading »

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