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Abandon the Tone Curve?

Mar 31, 2012 10:13 AM

I am finding that the new sliders in LR4 are extremely effective.  I am wondering if routine Tone Curve adjustments are helpful any more. How do you feel about using the Basic Sliders for adjustments, and not using the Tone Curve?  What would I be giving up by abandoning the Tone Curve?

 
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 31, 2012 10:24 AM   in reply to EricBier

    The consensus seems to be try running down the controls in order (though obviously with some iteration).  I've been trying to do that, and then after adjusting with the Basic panel if it still needs curves adjustent, I do it then.  I found with some recent shots of snow that in order to get contrast within the snow, it was easiest (for me) to use curves to steepen the band where the snow was, but otherwise I haven't used it much with LR4. 

     
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    Mar 31, 2012 11:34 AM   in reply to EricBier

    The curve - in the form of the point curve where you don't see the sliders - gives me an unsurpassed means to control the white point and black point.

    One of my custom curves looks like this:

     

    Curve1.JPG

     

    The white point is set to 95%; the black point to 5%. These values are (approximately) the extreme values that a printing press can do.

    When I apply this curve, I can't blow out the highlights, nor can I clip the blacks, no matter what I do with the sliders for Exposure, etc.

     

    The value in the curve tool lies exactly in this control of the extreme points. The further fine tuning can then be done with the sliders.

     
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    Apr 1, 2012 1:58 PM   in reply to EricBier

    EricBier wrote:

     

    How do you feel about using the Basic Sliders for adjustments, and not using the Tone Curve?

     

    I hardly ever used the tone curve in the first place, and it'll be even less with PV2012.

     
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    Apr 1, 2012 2:09 PM   in reply to EricBier

    EricBier wrote:

     

    What would I be giving up by abandoning the Tone Curve?

     

    Precision...

     

    You may not need to use curves as often in PV2012 but the controls on the Basic panel do not offer the same precision that point curve edits do. Plus in PV 2012 you also have access to RGB channel curves that allow color corrections you can't do anywhere else.

     

    If it less if you want, but it would be foolish to stop using curves for anything...

     
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    Apr 1, 2012 2:53 PM   in reply to EricBier

    EricBier,

    You wrote: "This curve leads to an overall decrease in contrast."

    Yes it does. It's just an example. You can create other custom curves.

     
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    Apr 1, 2012 3:34 PM   in reply to EricBier

    EricBier wrote:

     

    However, I am at a loss to achieve precision using the Tone Curve in Lightroom since any move affects the entire image creating undesireable effects in areas I am not focused on.

     

    I was referring to the precision in global tone curve adjustments in curves vs the tone mapping adjustments in the Basic panel...I was not talking about the precision of adjustments through a precise mask. Two different animals...you still have the ability to do local tone mapping in LR...but the mask making capability of Photoshop is, of course, more accurate.

     
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    Apr 4, 2012 5:05 AM   in reply to web-weaver

    What's the point of just giving up contrast like that?

     

    You can still well burn your highlights and block your shadows in the Basic panel. The difference will be: instead of getting flat white and black, you'll get flat darkgrey and lightgrey, respectively. On your screen, as well as in your prints.

     
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    Apr 4, 2012 7:28 AM   in reply to EricBier

    EricBier wrote:

     

    Jeff,

     

    ... I am at a loss to achieve precision using the Tone Curve in Lightroom since any move affects the entire image creating undesireable effects in areas I am not focused on.  If I do not go to Photoshop, I tend to use the Adjustment Brush or the Graduated Filter in Lightroom to affect different areas differently, after setting the Basic Sliders.

    In general, you are right--I find it best to go to PS for localized tone curve adjustments.  But there are a surprising number of special cases where  judicious maipulation of the LR curve can affect only the area you want affected.

     

    For example, its an easy matter to bring out sky detail when photographing dark aircraft from below by increasing the curve slope in the bright region and restoring the curve shape at the mid and dark tones.  This basically increases sky contrast (and detail) in a way that is not possible with other LR adjustments.

     

    For the last few years I've been teaching a Photoshop class that emphasizes curves techniques like that in PS.  I'm a new LR user and was surprised at how many images can be improved even without masks and with the relatively crude curve adjustments of LR.

     
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    Apr 4, 2012 7:58 AM   in reply to JerryGerber

    Speaking as someone who has gotten really good results in LR4 using only the Basic sliders and not using the Tone Curve, I would love to see an example of how using the Tone Curve improves upon the basic sliders. Is there a tutorial available, or can you show screen captures? LR4 only. Thanks.

     
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