How to Utilize Photoshop's Curves Adjustment Layer to Boost the Look of your Photos

July 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
 

 

If you’re an amateur photographer, you’re probably wondering how the professionals make their photographs look so beautiful and amazing. You might be thinking that you need a very expensive digital single reflex camera (DSLR) to produce brilliant-looking photos.
Don’t get me wrong; they indeed can generate great photos, but how about the people who can only use their iPhones or their digital cameras? This post will teach you how to utilize Photoshop’s Curves adjustment layer to boost the look of your photos no matter what kind of camera you’re using.

Of course, before starting with the tutorial, you’ll need two things: (1) Adobe Photoshop and any kind of (2) camera that can take photos which can be imported to Photoshop. I will be using a 3-megapixel camera from the iPhone 3G and Adobe Photoshop CS5.5.

 
This is your adjustments window. (If the tab is missing, just find: Window > Adjustments)

There are 15 adjustment layers total in Adobe Photoshop CS5.5. However, we'll only look on Curves Adjustment Layer for this tutorial. You can already produce eye catching photographs with these adjustment layers, but of course, you can also choose to explore other adjustment layers.

 

 
Curves Adjustment Layer

 

 
The Adjustments Layer Tab and the Curves button is boxed in red.
 
The curves dialog shows the tones in your image – shadows, midtones, and highlights.

The X-Axis represents the Input values, or the tones before curves modification have been made. Along the X-Axis, the left side of the dialog represents the shadows, the middle represents the midtones, and the right side represents the highlights in your image

The Y-Axis represents the Output values or the tones after the curves modification has been made. Along the Y-Axis, the bottom represents the shadows, the middle represents the midtones, and the top represents the highlights.

Now that we’ve properly solidified the basics, let’s get to the gist of our topic. How can we use Curves Adjustment Layer to enhance our photos? As you see, you have a 45 degree line in between the X and Y axis. We will use that line to manipulate the photograph’s shadows, midtones and highlights. Let me demonstrate with a couple screenshots.

 

As shown on the screenshots, if the 45 degree line is pulled upward, the image will get lighter, while if the line is pulled downward, the image will get darker. The fun part of the adjustment layer is actually the plotting of the points. There is no perfect curve for all photos so you will have to plot multiple points for the photograph to look its best.

If you noticed, there are several Cartesian planes on which you should plot the needed points. You will find that by clicking on RGB. You will see the other 3 planes, which are Red, Green and Blue.

 

The trick is to really have fun with what you’re doing until you arrive to the lively photo that you wanted. You can take amazing photos without having to spend so much for cameras. Utilize the use of these adjustment layers and make your photos come to life.


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