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This chapter is from the book

Using the Tone Curve tab

After using the Basic tab, a next logical step is to make a more refined adjustment of the upper and lower midtones, which we recommend doing individually via the Parametric sliders in the Tone Curve tab. (If you use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, these Parametric controls will look familiar.)

Note: We avoid manipulating the curve in the nested Point tab, because a misshapen curve can cause a photo to look posterized. The sliders in the Parametric tab don’t cause this problem.

To apply tonal adjustments using the Parametric sliders in the Tone Curve tab:

  1. With a photo open in Camera Raw, A click the Tone Curve tab, c0068-01.jpg then the nested Parametric tab. Behind the curve you’ll see a static display of the current histogram.

    Click to view larger image

    A In this photo, the midtones are too dark — few details are visible in those areas.

  2. Do either of the following:

    If you have already adjusted the Highlights and Shadows sliders in the Basic tab, leave the Highlights or Shadows sliders in this tab alone and just tweak the upper and lower midtones using the Lights and Darks sliders. If you didn’t adjust the Highlights and Shadows sliders in the Basic tab, you can use the sliders here to lighten or darken any individual tonal range: Highlights, Lights (upper midtones), Darks (lower mid-tones), or Shadows. As you move a slider, the corresponding portion of the curve will be raised above or lowered below the diagonal line (A–B, next page).


    Click to view larger image

    A To lighten the lower midtones, we increased the Darks value. This adjustment raised the middle of the curve.


    Click to view larger image

    B More details are now visible in the lightened midtones, such as on the sides of the buildings and on the side and surface of the canal. However, the sky looks a bit dull.

    Click the Targeted Adjustment tool c0068-02.jpg (T). Drag within a tonal range of the photo that needs adjustment (C, next page). As you do this, the slider and curve that correspond to the tonal range under the pointer will move accordingly.


    C To lighten the upper mid-tones (and thereby brighten the clouds, sky, and trees), we dragged upward over a light midtone area with the Targeted Adjustment tool; c0069-01.jpg the Lights value increased automatically.

    • To boost the contrast in a photo, try moving the Lights slider to the right and the Darks slider to the left.
  3. To control the range of tonal values that are affected by the slider adjustments you made in the preceding step, move any of the region controls (located below the graph). The left region control affects the Shadows slider, the right region control affects the Highlights slider, and the middle region control affects both the Lights and Darks sliders (D–E, next page). Move a control to the left to raise the curve and lighten adjacent tonal ranges, or move a control to the right to lower the curve and darken adjacent tonal ranges.

    Click to view larger image

    D Finally, we moved the middle region control slightly to the right, which had the effect of increasing the contrast and lightening the sky.


    Click to view larger image

    E Now the tonal values in the image look just right.

    • To use one shortcut to get to the nested Parametric tab in the Tone Curve tab and select the Targeted Adjustment tool, press Ctrl-Alt-Shift-T/Cmd-Option-Shift-T.
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