Color is an emotional environment. It works on both primitive and cultural levels to identify feelings, causes, movements, and styles. Applications like Instagram repaint images to give them associations they never had before – warmer images, for example, seem happier.
Adjustments to Photoshop curves work in a similar way, mediating between the light that passes through the lens and the final image. In this tutorial, urban sports photographer Chris Hill-Scott will show you how using this setting can bring the image closer to the original scene, and how you can creatively change its color to give it a different mood.
In this lesson you will use the promo picture of the London-based Kids Love Lies. You will learn to bring depth and richness in the shadows, as well as warmth in the skin tones of the band members, getting the effect of an old slide film.
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In Photoshop, open the group shot of the Kids Love Lies group.
Start with the original image — you want the tones to spread across the histogram, not too tightly grouped at both ends. Either adjust this in Camera Raw when you open the raw file, or, if your image is already in Photoshop, change the black and white dots by adjusting the levels. In the project files, this was done for you.
Click the button Add Adjustment Layer (Add Adjustment Laye) on the layers panel and select Curves (Curves). In the property bar that opened above the layers panel, add a point about a quarter of the way along the line by clicking on it, as in the image below.
Drag this point down as shown. This will make the image darker, because at each step along the now curved line the input value corresponds to a lower output value.
Now add another point three quarters of the way along the line. Drag this point up to the middle of the line that crosses the middle of the grid.
This will create a classic S-shaped curve that enhances the contrast of the image without making it darker or lighter overall — in other words, the dark tones become darker, while the light tones become lighter.
Add two more points to improve the contrast of the image and change their position, as shown in the figure below. Focus on extreme highlights and shadows so that they do not become brighter or darker. It is better to overdo the effect, it is easier to see the result, and then change it afterwards.
One of the remarkable features of the corrective layers is that you can make changes to the image, without damaging effects. Moderate the effect of the adjustment layer by changing it. Opacity (Opacity) up to 60%, for this you need to press the button with the number 6, when you have selected the Tool Move (Move).
You can also change the layer’s blending mode – try Glow (Brightness) (Luminosity). The image will now maintain increased black and white contrast without increasing color contrast, in other words, without increasing saturation. As a rule, the less work each layer performs, the easier you can control it.
Now you have some idea of how the Tool works. Curves (Curves), and now we will learn how to make color correction using a pipette by adjusting the Curves of each of the primary colors. Add a new Curves adjustment layer by clicking on the button. Add Adjustment Layer (Add Adjustment Laye) on the layers panel, and select Curves (Curves). Set the layer blending mode to Chromaticity (Color).
On the property bar, select Tool. Pipette (Eyedropper tool) with a gray dot (medium). Then click on the gray image area, for example, the gray walls in the background. You will see that each of the three curves has moved. This is a quick and easy way to correct any color shades that might appear when shooting. In our example, one click on a gray background perfectly adjusted the color of the entire image!
Now we are going to improve the colors. In the top drop-down menu labeled RGB, select only blue (Blue) channel. As in the previous curve layer, add a point a quarter of the way along the curve, but this time drag it upwards. This will make every part of the image — from shadows to highlights — bluer than it was before.
In fact, we do not need a blue image, but cooling the shadows is a good step, so take another point on the line, about three-quarters of the way up. Drag this point down to return the primary colors to the neutral position.
Now, drag down further, making the light areas less blue than the original image. Strengthening the blue channel leads to a blue tint, and weakening to yellow, and a pleasant warm light appears.
But, blue and yellow are not exactly suitable skin tones, and make the people in the photo look a bit unhealthy, so we will adjust the green channel. Take the middle of the green curve and drag a little down. This will shift the blue shade to purple and the yellow shade to orange.
Often the image can benefit from changes in some parts of the photo. In our case, the vocalist’s hands are very bright and attract the eye, so we need to correct this part of the image. Curves adjustment layer will help us to do this, so create a new one by clicking on the button Add Adjustment Layer (Add Adjustment Layer) on the layers panel and select Curves (Curves).
Before working with this adjustment layer, let’s work with its mask. Take the tool Tool Gradient (Gradient Tool) (G), and reset the colors by pressing the D key. Now draw a vertical line (holding the Shift key) from the bottom of the image to the singer’s chin. Now, all changes made by this adjustment layer will be applied only to the white part of the mask layer.
On the property bar, drag the curve down as you did in step 2. Also, it will look good if all the lower shadows of the image are purple, so select the green channel and drag the curve down about the same distance.
Go back to each of your layers and customize Opacity (Opacity) until you get a good balance. And so, the final result of our adjustment.
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