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8 - Tone Curve Panel

Look in the upper-right corner of Lightroom, and make sure you're in the Develop module.

We're now going to look at the Tone Curve panel.

The Purpose of Tone Curve Panel

Most photographers use the Tone Curve panel to tweak the contrast.

The heavy lifting is done with the Basics panel.

You may want to do the same.

However, some photographers use the Tone Curves panel for everything.

So, experiment.

Two Versions

The Tone Curve panel has two versions.

You'll probably use version #2 more than version #1.

To switch between the two versions, click the Point Curve icon in the lower-right corner of the panel.

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Point Curve Icon

Version #1 - Point Curve

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Tone Curve Panel - Point Curve

Version #2 - Sliders

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Tone Curve Panel - Sliders

The Tone Curve Graph

Let's explore the tone-curve graph.

Before You Do Anything

When you first open the Tone Curve panel, you see a white straight line.

This curve represents your unchanged photograph file.

The curve isn't a histogram.

It doesn't represent the actual tonal values of your photograph.

After You Do Something

After you move the curve, it represents the change in the tonal value.

Note

Lightroom may apply default changes when importing a photograph.

If it does so, the curve may not be a straight line.

The Two Axes

Bottom Axis

The horizontal axis of the graph is the original tonal values of the file.

Side Axis

The vertical axis of the graph is the changed tonal values of the file.

Horizontal axis

Original tonal values

Vertical axis

Changed tonal values

Changed Tonal Values

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Original Tonal Values

Four Regions

The Tone Curve panel divides the tonal values of a photograph into four regions:

• Highlights

• Lights

• Darks

• Shadows

Highlights

Lights

Darks

Shadows

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Shadows  Darks  Lights  Highlights

Changing the Curve

When you change the curve, the tonal values change from their original values.

Move a Single Point

When you move a single point on the curve up, that tone becomes brighter.

When you move a single point on the curve down, that tone becomes darker.

Up

Brighter

Down

Darker

Try It

Click on the white line, hold, and drag it up-and-down.

Some of the tonal values of your photograph become brighter and darker.

Reset

To reset to a linear curve, do the following.

1) Right click (Windows) or Ctrl + click (Mac) on the graph.

2) Select Flatten Curve or Reset All.

Change the Slope

When the slope of the curve changes.

If the slope is steeper, there's more contrast.

If the slope is shallower, there's less contrast.

Steeper slope

More contrast

Shallower slope

Less contrast

Try It

Look for the Point Curve menu in the lower-right corner of the Tone Curve panel.

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Point Curve Menu

Open the menu and click Medium Contrast or Strong Contrast.

When the slope changes, the contrast changes.

Reset

Again, to reset to a linear curve, do the following.

1) Right click (Windows) or Ctrl + click (Mac) on the graph.

2) Select Flatten Curve or Reset All.

Change the Tone Curve

Move the sliders.

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Tone Curve Sliders

No Sliders?

If you don't see the sliders, click the Point Curve icon in the lower-right corner of the Tone Curve panel.

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Point Curve Icon

Compare!

Look at the before version of your photograph, and the after version.

Click the Turn Off icon repeatedly.

The icon is located in the upper-left corner of the Tone Curve panel.

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Turn Off Icon

Reset

To reset a single slider, double click the name of the slider.

To rest all of the sliders, double click Region.

Another Way to Reset

Right click (Windows) or Ctrl + click (Mac) on the graph, and make a selection from the reset menu.

Three Other Ways to Change the Curve

There are three other ways you can adjust the curve.

Way #1 - Click & Drag the Curve

Click on the curve, hold the mouse button down, and drag up-and-down.

Way #2 - Targeted Adjustment Tool

The Targeted Adjustment tool is located in the upper-left corner of the Tone Curve panel.

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Targeted Adjustment Tool

Do the following.

1) Click the tool.

2) Click on your photograph, hold, and drag, up-and-down.

The area that you clicked on, and other similar areas, are adjusted.

Done

When you're finished with the Targeted Adjustment tool, click Done.

The Done button is located below and to the right of your photograph.

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Done Button

Way #3 - Points on the Curve

You used the Point Curve menu above.

If you see the sliders . . .

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Tone Curve Sliders

. . . click the Point Curve icon in the lower-right corner of the Tone Curve panel.

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Point Curve Icon

Then, in the point Curve menu, select Linear, Medium Contrast, or Strong Contrast.

Linear Curve

If you selected Linear, click on the curve to create a control point, a tiny white circle on the curve.

Then, click and hold on the control point, and drag up-and-down.

Medium Contrast & Strong Contrast Curves

Click and hold on a control point, the tiny white circle on the curve.

Then, drag up-and-down.

Click on he curve to create more control points.

Delete a Control Point

To delete a control point, do the following.

1) Right click (Windows) or Ctrl + click (Mac) on the control point.

2) Select Delete Control Point.

Reset

To reset to a linear curve, do the following.

1) Right click (Windows) or Ctrl + click (Mac) on the graph.

2) Select Flatten Curve.

Contrast & Saturation

Occasionally, when you change the contrast, the color saturation may change adversely.

If so, use the Vibrance and Saturation sliders in the Basic panel to return the saturation to your liking.

Vibrance only affects colors that are not already saturated.

Saturation affects all colors.

Even More Control

There are three sliders, split controls, at the bottom of the graph.

Move these sliders to change the size of the four regions.

To reset one of these sliders, double click the slider.

Clipping

Avoid extreme changes, as clipping my result.

If you haven't already, go to the Histogram Panel and to Clipping.