Did you know there is a color curves command in Photoshop Elements?
I didn't - and it was really annoying because the power of
the curves adjustment in Photoshop was missing - or so I thought.
This is the adjustment that will brighten and image and improve
contrast and modify the color of an image and it really is worth
knowing. Contrast is, after all, the one thing that separates
an OK image from a fabulous image.
Because of my erroneous belief Photoshop Elements was generally
dismissed as a nice but seriously lacking digital imaging product.
OK - so I have to change my tune - let's look at adjusting curves with
Elements in your digital darkroom ...
The first thing is to locate the color curves command - it's locted in
the Enhance Menu
And this is the dialogue that will come up ...
The palette includes:
and After Preview
A Preview Grid
Using the Pre-Sets is quite easy and straight forward.
Simply open an image in Photoshop Elements, open the palette and try
out each one of the pre-sets in order.
previews will show the original image and the effect of the curves
adjustment plus the curve for that pre-set will show up on the grid.
When you find one you like then click OK and that's it.
The curves grid will give you an idea of how moving the sliders will
affect an image and this may help when you are ready to dive into
adjusting the sliders on your own.
Adjusting the sliders
individually will produce great results but they
can be a bit of a challenge until you get used to using them.
As you move the sliders the points on the grid will move up or down and
in one case the point will move left and right.
Unlike Photoshop, you cannot move the points on the grid - they have to
be adjusted with the sliders. There are three points that can
be adjusted -
Bottom Point - the Shadow point
Middle Point - the Midtone point
Top Point - the Highlights
Here is an image that needs some contrast adjustment. It can
be done with the pre-sets but they don't go quite far enough.
Before starting the adjustment, make a copy of the background layer.
This makes it easy to check the before and after image after
making the adjustment and clicking OK. Additionally, this
adjustment is not completed on an adjustment layer so the copy keeps
your original image intact.
adjustment was to move the Highlights
Slider to the right which moved the Highlights
point upward on the curve.
This brightened the image, especially the body of the plane
The second adjustment was to move the Shadow Slider to the
which moved the Shadow
This created a kind of "S"
curve which is a typical contrast improving
adjustment in both Photoshop and here in Elements.
third adjustment was to move the Midtone
Brightness to the right which moved the Midtone point
The higher a point on the curve, the lighter the image becomes and the
lower the point on the curve the darker the image will become..
fourth adjustment moved the
Midtone Contrast to the right which moved the Midtone point to the
right. This moved the Midtone point about one-half a square
to the right of its original position.
This adjustment created a more pronounced "S" curve which
contrast just a bit.
The adjustment can produce very noticeable and
dramatic changes in an image. It is a good idea to create a
layer, do some adjustments, click OK and then turn the copy
off and on to see if you like the change your adjustment has made.
If you don't like it then throw out the copy layer and start again.
In the old style "wet" darkroom curves are analogous to the black
and white mult-grade papers and the little filters that were placed
below the light source.
I have to admit that I never really understood how to use the
multi-grade papers with the filters and that is probably why my black
and white prints tended to lack contrast.
The color curves dialgogue, at first, may be a bit of a mystery until
understood the importance of good contrast in an image and how easy it
is to modify the contrast with the this dialogue.