Beyond Basic Photoshop: Using Curves

Written by Bill Hankins

Before even getting to Curves, one of the first things Craig Sands recommends in Photoshop is for photographers to change the assigned Profile of the image from whatever the camera setting is to Adobe RGB (1998). Notice the brighter colors of the larger image of the boy on the lower left. The original image below is a bit more drab.

Now, in Curves, Craig recommends analyzing what part of the image to lighten or darken. Then with Curves active,

  1. Use the pencil and click on the spot to adjust — the deep shadows in the girl dancing. That spot shows on the diagonal line in Curves. Click on that spot.
  2. Go back to the photo and click on midtones around the face. Anchor that point on the diagonal as well.
  3. Move the selected points on the diagonal line to lighten the deep shadows and to get detail in the shadow area of the face. Select OK.
  4. Now, look at the photo and analyze the effects. If highlights need to be tweaked go back into Curves, click on a highlight area, find it on the diagonal line and move it slightly to get the right tone


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Bill Hankins

Bill Hankins taught scholastic photojournalism for 26 years, advised student publications for 29 years, and instructed more than 1,600 photojournalists, mostly at Oak Park High School in Kansas City. Before retiring, Hankins received the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, the Pioneer Award from the NSPA, the Certificate of Merit from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 from the JEA.