For those of you who’ve seen Deke’s awesome live-action video explaining the Photoshop Curves command, check out the short video above from our good friend Mordy Golding, in which Mordy captures some of the green screen magic behind-the-scenes in the recording studio.
If you haven’t seen Deke’s video, go watch it! Deke actually climbs inside a Photoshop feature. It’s like his dream is coming true, and you reap the benefits of a very illustrative explanation of a very complex Photoshop feature: Curves.
The Photoshop Curves command is the most complex of the luminance controls in Photoshop, meaning—if you can brave it—you’ll get fine control over shadows, highlights, midtones, quarter-tones, three-eighth tones, (you get the picture tones) in your image. But using Curves takes some foreknowledge, which is why Deke made the first four movies of the Curves chapter (aka Chapter 26) in his lynda.com Photoshop CS6 One-on-One course free to all. (The folk at lynda.com actually unlock 10 percent of every course, and we asked them to spend a concentrated amount of that 10 percent on “unlocking” the Curves feature.)
When should you intrepidly wander into the land of Curves? Basically, when the job at hand is too much for Brightness/Contrast or the Levels command. Read on to see what I mean:
For instance, let’s say you had this black and white image and really wanted to make it relentlessly rich from a luminance point of view (it’s a bit high-key at the moment):
You could try a Brightness/Contrast adjustment:
You could try a Levels Adjustment:
But with Curves you’re not limited to the two sliders available in Brightness/Contrast or the three tonal point controls (Black, Gamma, White) in Levels. With Curves, the whole Histogram is your playground, allowing you to map any luminance level to any new luminance level, and curving the itinerant transitions around those settings. The result is this image Deke likes to call “unambiguous.”
To get a sense of the Curves contribution, compare the model’s hair detail and the fur on her jacket color in each photo. So there’s your real answer: rely on Photoshop Curves when your needs and desires for luminance control are unambiguous.
Other stuff to put off dealing with Monday:
- Find out why why Deke named Curves #24 in his list of Photoshop Top 40 features.
- Listen to how I plied Deke with his favorite beverages (gin and coffee) to get him to explain how Photoshop Levels work.
- Seriously, check out those four free videos about Curves in Deke’s Advanced course (Chapter 26), and if you want more (more Curves, more Photoshop in general) you can sign up for a free week-long trial at lynda.com/deke to watch the whole thing.
- If you like the behind-the-scenes stuff, check out Von Glitschka’s (aka Vonster) post on what it’s like to record a lynda.com course.
- Put up with my occasionally non-Deke non-Photoshop ramblings by following me on Twitter.