14 Replies Latest reply on Jan 29, 2019 4:07 PM by Todd Shaner

    Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?

    StanWelks Level 1

      Does it make a difference if I start adjusting contrast with the Tone Curve before adjusting Highlights, Whites, Shadows, Blacks, Exposure? Are there any issues with doing this?

       

      Thanks.

        • 1. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
          ManiacJoe Adobe Community Professional

          Since the order of operations done by Lightroom during the export is not publicly documented, it probably does not matter what order your do them in.

           

          That said, if I am going to use a tone curve, I always do it first. It is probably just my mindset, but I see the tone curve as a "big" adjustment while the sliders are a "small" adjustment.

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          • 2. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
            JohanElzenga Adobe Community Professional

            StanWelks  wrote

             

            Does it make a difference if I start adjusting contrast with the Tone Curve before adjusting Highlights, Whites, Shadows, Blacks, Exposure? Are there any issues with doing this?

             

            Thanks.

            No, it does not matter. Lightroom is a parametric editor. That means that all the edits are stored in metadata, like a grocery list or a 'to do' list. That list is always followed in a certain order, determined by Adobe. Just like you'll get your groceries in a certain order that is determined by the lay-out of the shop, not by the order in which you made the list.

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            • 3. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
              Todd Shaner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              The Tone Curve is applied after the Basic panel Tone controls. To prove this move the Tone Curve end points vertically from the 0% and 100% and then try to reestablish the 0 and 100 clipping points using the Whites and Blacks controls in the Basic panel. It can't be done (see below). So it does matter in what order these controls are adjusted.

               

              Adobe has placed the individual Basic panel Tone controls and the Tone curve in a top-down adjustment order that works best. The PV2012 Version 3 or Version 4 Tone Controls should be applied first so you can determine if adjustments to the Tone Curve are even needed. There are some situations where you may need to apply the Tone Curve first such as processing negative film images (inverted Tone Curve) or for special effects (solarisation). Other than these "special cases" you'll get better results in a shorter period of time by using the top-down adjustment workflow with Tone Curve last.

               

              You may also find the new Version 4 Local controls Range Mask Luminace and Color controls more useful than the Tone Curve since they allow targeting tone and color in specific image areas.

               

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              • 4. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                JohanElzenga Adobe Community Professional

                Todd Shaner  wrote

                 

                The Tone Curve is applied after the Basic panel Tone controls. To prove this move the Tone Curve end points vertically from the 0% and 100% and then try to reestablish the 0 and 100 clipping points using the Whites and Blacks controls in the Basic panel. It can't be done (see below). So it does matter in what order these controls are adjusted.

                 

                No, it does not matter. Yes, the tone curve may be applied after the Basic tone controls. Nobody is saying otherwise. But that is not the point. The point is that this order is always the same, no matter in what order you did the edits. That is because the 'edits' are only a list in XMP, and when applying those edits Lightroom will go through the list in a fixed order, that you cannot change.

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                • 5. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                  richardplondon Level 4

                  Rather than speaking of which is "after", perhaps it is clearer to talk of which "depends" on the other's processing.

                   

                  • However local adjustments are modifying the source data, this is what the Basic Panel has got to work with
                  • However the Basic panel is currently adjusting the image: this is what Tone Curve has got to work with
                  • Split Toning etc works on the result of that.

                   

                  Say the reason highlights are blown out, is because Basic panel (in combination with local adjustments) has set them too bright: there is nothing Tone Curve can now do to retrieve that lost detail. It is necessary to make a change in Basic panel (or local adjustments). On the other hand if the reason highlights are blown out is because Tone Curve is pushing then through the roof, then dialling back Tone Curve will be the better course in terms of tonal smoothness, than it would be to have a very strong lightening in Tone Curve fighting against an input which is needlessly "underexposed" (more strictly, under-lightened).

                   

                  And if the reason shadows are noisily blocked is because Basic panel has set them too dark. Tone Curve's attempt to mitigate this will just look crude.

                   

                  For these reasons, IMO it is best to consider Tone Curve as a special-purpose "tone shaper" or "special sauce" rather than as some kind of fundamental control for the image. Not least, one may follow a policy of processing first for a standard tonal presentation in Basic - and then afterwards to Sync some particular applied tonal look or character over the top - one which operates consistently in visual terms from image to image, somewhat as a LUT might when applied to JPGs - via the independent means of Tone Curve.

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                  • 6. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                    Todd Shaner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                    JohanElzenga  wrote

                    No, it does not matter. Yes, the tone curve may be applied after the Basic tone controls. Nobody is saying otherwise. But that is not the point. The point is that this order is always the same, no matter in what order you did the edits.

                    Johan that is correct, but not the point I was trying to make. Here's what the OP asked:

                     

                    "Does it make a difference if I start adjusting contrast with the Tone Curve before adjusting Highlights, Whites, Shadows, Blacks, Exposure? Are there any issues with doing this?"

                     

                    My advice applies to best LR workflow practices without regard to how the Tone Curve is actually applied. In addition there is an "issue" if the Tone Curve is applied first and the end points are moved vertically off of 0% and 100%.

                     

                    The only time it makes sense to apply the Tone Curve first is to change the default tonal rendering of a specific camera profile. Even in this case it would be better to create an enhanced camera profile that includes these Tone Curve settings using the new LR 7.3 Profile tools. This leaves the Tone Curve at its default linear setting making it easier to use when needed.

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                    • 7. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                      JohanElzenga Adobe Community Professional

                      OK, so maybe our answer to the OP should be this:

                      1: No, it does not make a difference in the end result. No matter what order you use, the result is always the same.

                      2: Yes, there could be 'issues' if you apply the tone curve first, in that you may try to 'undo' something you did in the Basic pane that cannot be undone by the Tone curve anymore.

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                      • 8. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                        JBedfordPhoto Level 1

                        What I'd be interested in knowing is the following:

                         

                        Why aren't the tone sliders linked to subsequent adjustments made to their equivalents in the tone curve adjustment?

                         

                        In other words, when I make adjustments to the tone sliders, then 'tell' the tone curve what range of the curve the shadows, highlights, etc... are to be (by moving the little points under the curve), why don't my previous tone adjustments (above the tone curve panel) refresh based on the updated tone curve information? e.g. If I make the range of shadows much larger in the tone curve, why doesn't the shadows slider's range become increased as well?

                        • 9. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                          ricky336 Adobe Community Professional

                          I think it is best practice to follow the order of the Lightroom panels, that is the default order -

                          Basic, Tone Curve, etc

                          That was the orginal intention, as I understand from Julieanne Kost's videos in the early days of Lightroom.

                          But now the default order can be changed, so really, you can do the changes in any order, But remember, each change impacts the other.

                          And anyway, you can always undo your results and start again (providing you are using raw files).

                           

                          As for the above question

                           

                          'If I make the range of shadows much larger in the tone curve, why doesn't the shadows slider's range become increased as well? '

                           

                          I guess, because they are two different things, one is exposure, the other the tone. They are to be used in tandem. They are not quite the same thing. But if you look at the histogram, you will see the changes.

                          The histogram is the most useful point of reference!

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                          • 10. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                            richardplondon Level 4

                            'If I make the range of shadows much larger in the tone curve, why doesn't the shadows slider's range become increased as well? '

                             

                            The Shadows slider (and everything else in Basic) refers back to source image data - the imported file - in principle. Basic is about working from that (taking account of Local adjustments). So what you can do with your Shadows depends on what you have done for Exposure and Contrast - since this is redistributing tones; this is varying the processing 'recipe'. Local adjustments tweak the 'ingredients' that this recipe then combines.

                             

                            Tone Curve happens after-the-fact. It's something like having salt and sugar available at the restaurant table, that you can sprinkle onto food after it's been cooked and served. And doing that cannot affect what's already happened in the kitchen - it can only seek to mask, or compensate for that.

                             

                            If you find the chef's made the dish less salty than you like, you can sprinkle a little salt on. But if it's arrived more salty than you like, you can't take some salt OUT at the table - and sprinkling sugar instead, would be a bit of a last resort - a second-best. And it's unnecessary too - since you get to say what happens in the kitchen too. Get the over-saltiness corrected there!

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                            • 11. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                              Conrad C Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                              JBedfordPhoto  wrote

                              Why aren't the tone sliders linked to subsequent adjustments made to their equivalents in the tone curve adjustment?

                               

                              In other words, when I make adjustments to the tone sliders, then 'tell' the tone curve what range of the curve the shadows, highlights, etc... are to be (by moving the little points under the curve), why don't my previous tone adjustments (above the tone curve panel) refresh based on the updated tone curve information? e.g. If I make the range of shadows much larger in the tone curve, why doesn't the shadows slider's range become increased as well?

                              The answer is in richardplondon's post earlier: Because the Tone Curve works with the range handed to it by the Basic panel. In other words, they are linked, but only one way, and not in the direction you want. For example, if you drag the Whites and Blacks sliders to limit the tonal range of the image, you can immediately see the histogram in the Tone Curve shift and clip. Because you can't set Tone Curve values beyond 0–100, you can't use the Tone Curve to recover tones beyond what it received from the Basic panel. If you want the Shadows slider to have more range, what you want to do is raise the Blacks level in the Basic panel.

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                              • 12. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                                Todd Shaner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                JBedfordPhoto  wrote

                                 

                                Why aren't the tone sliders linked to subsequent adjustments made to their equivalents in the tone curve adjustment? If I make the range of shadows much larger in the tone curve, why doesn't the shadows slider's range become increased as well?

                                As explained by myself and others in this post the LR Develop controls are applied to the image file data in the top-down order of the panels. Think of it as PS layers with the LR panels shown in reverse order. The first layer is the Basic panel adjustments with the Tone Curve adjustments on TOP of the panel Basic layer. The Shadows and highlights controls recover raw data that has been pushed into clipping (RGB 0,0,0 and 100,100,100) by the camera profile's Tone Curve and WB correction. Any pixels that remain clipped (RGB 0,0,0 and 100,100,100) cannot be recovered using the Tone Curve. You can move the Tone Curve endpoints vertically to change the clipped pixels values, but no actual image data will be recovered. The clipped pixels will simply take on a new value such as 10,10,10 and 90,90,90 without revealing any additional Shadow or Highlight detail.

                                 

                                EDITED: That's why it's important recommended to adjust the LR Develop controls in their top-down order.

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                                • 13. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                                  thedigitaldog MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                  In terms of the processing, no, it makes no difference because LR and ACR apply edits in the order best for that processing, not user applied order.

                                  In terms of the user and taking perhaps two steps forward and three steps back, perhaps. If you end up with the rendering and appearance you desire, then use any order you wish however, it is usually recommend (by actual Adobe engineers) to use the editing controls in the order presented: top down (then left to right in ACR). But when the rubber meets the road, it makes NO difference what order you apply edits in terms of the final rendering and image processing.

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                                  • 14. Re: Adjusting Tone Curve Before Tone Sliders?
                                    Todd Shaner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                    thedigitaldog  wrote

                                     

                                    In terms of the user and taking perhaps two steps forward and three steps back, perhaps. If you end up with the rendering and appearance you desire, then use any order you wish however, it is usually recommend (by actual Adobe engineers) to use the editing controls in the order presented: top down (then left to right in ACR). But when the rubber meets the road, it makes NO difference what order you apply edits in terms of the final rendering and image processing.

                                    Agreed, I've edited my reply to reflect that sentiment. The results will be the same whether you apply the Tone Curve first or Basic panel controls first.

                                     

                                    As mentioned there are certain cases where you may want to apply the Tone Curve first such as processing negative film images (inverted Tone Curve), special effects (solarisation), or simply to modify the the camera profile's tone curve. The Basic panel Contrast control targets only the midtones so you'll need to use the Tone Curve for this purpose and adjusting it first will speed the adjustment process.