Lightroom Week: Tone Curve Thursday

April 1, 2010

Learning, Lightroom, Photo Tips

Photograph © Rick Sammon. All Rights Reserved.

The Tone Curve panel  is one of the most powerful features in Lightroom. It’s often my first stop when working on an image – when I have a good exposure that does not need any Recovery or Fill Light (creative controls  that you’ll f ind in the Basic panel).

When you adjust the Tone Curve, you adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of the image.

You can adjust the Curve by clicking in the Curve dialog and by adjusting the triangle sliders below the dialog. However, most new comers to Lightroom find it easier to adjust the different tones in an image by using the sliders, which make self-explanatory adjustments: Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadows.

If you don’t see the Curve sliders, click the little fly-out arrow at the bottom right of the dialog (outside the box).

You can see the before/after effect by clicking on the tiny box at the very top of the Tone Curve dialog (outside the box).

To reset and start over, click Reset at the very bottom of the bottom of the Basics panel.

I often like to add a bit of a contrast to an image. I do that my creating an “S” curve in the Curves panel simply by moving the Highlights slider to the right and the Darks slider to the left.

For this image, I also selected the Strong Contrast option from the Point Curve fly-out option. Play around with these options for more creative control.

Explore the light – and Lightroom!



Note re Lightroom 3 Beta 2: There is a new, tiny icon in the lower right-hand corner of the Tone Curve panel (above right image). When clicked, lets you adjust Curves as you do in Photoshop: clicking on points, locking in those points and then making your adjustments.

Also, for quick-fix for a low-contrast image,  you can simply click on Tone Curve – Strong Contrast in the Presets panel on the left side of the main panel (in earlier versions, too).


This post was written by:

- who has written 171 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon has published 36 books, including Exploring the Light and Digital Photography Secrets.

When asked about his photo specialty, Rick says, “My specialty is not specializing.”

You can follow Rick on twitter at and visit his website at

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2 Responses to “Lightroom Week: Tone Curve Thursday”

  1. Vincent Iñaki Says:

    Hi Rick,

    Will there be an Aperture-week?
    I’m switching to Aperture in a few weeks and I would like to learn some great tricks.


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