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How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom: The Ultimate Guide

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom The Ultimate Guide

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom. Mastering tone curves can make a big difference in your photography. Tone curves allow you to adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of an image. This can be used to correct problems with your photos or to give them a specific look that you are going for. In this tutorial, we will show you how to use tone curves to improve your photos. We will also give you some tips on how to get the most out of them. So let’s get started!

The (Point) Tone Curve

The (Point) Tone Curve allows you to make precise adjustments to your photograph by clicking and dragging any point on the graph to adjust the shadows, darks, lights, and highlights of your image. The graph displayed in the tone curve window represents your image’s pixel information along the X-axis (horizontal axis) or Input. You will notice the pixels are broken down into four main sections, shadows, darks, lights, and highlights.

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom - The Point Curve

Tone Curves and Contrast.

Since the input values (on the X-axis) are plotted against the corresponding output values (on the Y-axis) we can adjust the output values to give us more contrast. If you move down the Y-axis, the output is decreased/darkened. If you move up the Y-axis, the output is increased/lightened. We are adding contrast by decreasing the output of the shadows (darkening) and increasing the output of the lighter areas (lightening).

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom - The Point Curve Input and Output

RGB Color Curves.

The RGB color space has three channels (Red, Green, and Blue) and the opposite color of the RGB color space is CMY (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow). You will notice that Lightroom has a subtle RGB and CMY color overlay on each curve, this is handy for beginners and professionals when adjusting colors. We will take a closer look at this in the next example below.

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom - The Point Curve RGB-CMY

RGB and CMY

In this example, we are working with the RED tone curve and If you move down the Y-axis, the output is decreased, shifting our shadows towards CYAN. If you move up the Y-axis, the output is increased, shifting our highlights towards RED. You can think of it as adding or subtracting color. RED is subtracted or neutralized with the opposite color CYAN.

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom - The Point Curve RGB R E

The (Parametric) Tone Curve

The Parametric curve (points are determined by parameters) gives you a lot more power when trying to make a single part of an image stand out without affecting other parts. Essentially you get smoother transitions between the highlights, lights, darks, and shadows, and it’s very easy to use! Another great feature of the parametric curve is that it works independently or in tandem with the point curve.

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom-Parametric Curve

Adjust by Dragging

This handy little tool can be used on the Point or Parametric curve. By clicking on this node you can select any part of your photo and drag your cursor up or down to adjust your curve! I find this tool works best with the Parametric curve because you get smooth transitions between the highlights, lights, darks, and shadows.

How to Master Tone Curves in Lightroom Parametric Curve Tool

Conclusion.

We hope this blog post has helped you better understand how to use tone curves, point curves, and parametric curves. Make sure you check out our video below, we’ll take a look at some different ways that tone curves can be used for better photo editing. If you have any questions about the different types of curves or want help with your next project, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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