In this short tutorial I will show you how to use one of the easiest and most powerful tools found in Lightroom – the Tone Curve. In my previous tutorial about black & white conversions, I briefly showed you how to use the HSL Panel’s Luminance section to control the lightness of separate colors of the image. Using the Tone Curve Panel is very similar as it also allows you to control the lightness and darkness of various parts of a given photograph, however, rather than altering separate colors, the Tone Curve tool controls certain ranges of actual tones in the image.
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What Is It?
The Tone Curve represents all the tones of your image. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve is the Tone axis: the line starts with Shadows at the left-most end and ends with Highlights in the right-most end. In the middle you have Midtones, which are then further split into darker Midtones, called Darks in Lightroom, and brighter Midtones, called Lights. In other words, going left to right, the curve starts with Shadows, Darks, Lights and ends with Highlights. You can also see the corresponding range shown to you by Lightroom once you hover over a specific slider under the Tone Curve, in the Region section of the Panel. The Y axis represents lightness of a given tones. The tones get darker as you move lower and brighter as you move up the axis.
While all of this may sound very technical, it is in fact quite simple to adjust. All you need to decide on is which range of tones you want to alter, for example: if you want to make the Midtones of the image darker, just click on the middle portion of the Tone Curve and gently drag it downwards – you will notice your image getting darker as you drag it, similarly as it would if you were to decrease Exposure in the Basic Panel. If, on the other hand, you wanted to make your Shadows part of the image brighter, you should click on the left-most third of the Tone Curve which represents the Shadows and gently drag it upwards to see them brighten up. Simple, isn’t it?