#CreativeFriday – Lightroom Tone Curve & Target Adjustment Tool

Today’s post is just to show a quick re-touch on an image. The objective is to give the image some punch and presence, but not to over work the image. My personal image post processing is always kept to a minimum, a bit like a quick mid week supper, something that can be achieved in under 20minutes.

The image that we will be looking is a simple shot that I took in China a few years ago. I really like the playfulness of the scene, as well as the interaction with the girls on this bench, they really moved fast to stop their faces being seen by the lens.

The first part of the process is to work the basic panel, with the objective to just to expand the histogram, open the highlights and shadows and generally tighten up the image as a base for the next adjustments using the white and black points.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 20.23.17

The next process is just to apply the Lens Corrections, based on the lens used for this shot. These settings are found under the Lens Corrections tab (marked in red), and is as simple as selecting and enabling the Profile Corrections check box (more details are covered in this post, as well as automating this on an image import). I pretty much always turn on the Chromatic Aberration, just to give the image a once over and remove any simple basic fringing issues.

The image above is slightly slanted on the bricks behind the girls, so i’ve just added an Auto upright to correct this part of the image.

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Actually, I really like the image out of the camera, so I don’t think there is a lot of work to get this to it’s final state. A classic technique that can be applied here, is to apply an ‘S’ tone curve. The ‘S’ curve is quite simple, it’s a darkening of the shadows, and a lift on the highlight and maybe a lift in the middle grey area. This ‘S’ curve will give a bit of contrast to the image and give provide punch for the viewer.

For this, i’ll take advantage of the Target Adjustment Tool (TAT) on the Tone Curve. The TAT tool is found on the top left of the Tone Curve panel (marked in red below). The TAT tool below is in the off state. To turn it on, just click it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 20.23.39

Once clicked the TAT tool will highlight white (marked red below) and the mouse pointer will change to the TAT tool. The beauty of using the TAT tool, as opposed to moving the tone curve manually, is that you can hover over an area on the image and it’s tonal value will automatically represent itself on the actual Tone Curve. As the TAT tool is moved around the image, it’s relative point will be represented on the tone curve, showing you where in the image the tone lies. This will allow you to select and see the areas that need to be adjusted.

There are two points that i am looking for which will create the ‘S’ curve. The yellow marked area is a shadow/dark tone and by holding a right click on the mouse (or digital stylus like a Wacom pen) and dragging this downwards with the mouse, will pull the shadow area down on the curve and will affect the image at the same time (increasing contrast). The other part of the image to modify and increase in value is the highlight area, for this i’ve chosen quite a bright white area (marked in purple below), and increased this using the mouse or the pen, as described previously.

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Once these two modification points have been applied the curve will look similar to the one below. If a point needs removing, a right click on the curve will bring up the fly out menu which allows you to remove the point (one by one), or to flatten the curve and remove all points.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 20.24.19

Previewing the before and after adjustment of the Tone Curve, is done by turning off this panels adjustment. This is done by clicking on the switch marked in yellow below on the Tone Curve panel (this switch is available one most of the panels, and works in the same way).

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 20.24.56 copyThe majority of the tonal work to the image has been achieved by just applying an ‘S’ curve. There are a few other things to complete which will add some more interest and keep the viewer focused on the picture.

The way my eye works is that it’s attracted to bright areas in the image and repelled from the darker areas. Old master printers would often add an edge burn to the image, as this will repel the eye and move it away back into the light areas. Typically it’s not that obvious on the image, but the eye will recognise the tonal difference, and the transition to the brighter areas will be an automatic reaction. There are a few ways to do this, but the one I’ve decided to use in this image is a Post Crop Vignette. The Vignette will be applied to the outer edges all around the image (about 3/4 inch into the image edges), and by setting the style to Highlight Priority and the amount to negative, will darken or burn the edges.

I’ve also added to some to add a bit of grit to the image by using the grain sliders.

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With just a little bit of spotting to remove any oddities, like cigarette ends, rubbish, small bright areas etc with the clone and heal brush (marked red below), this cleans this image up nicely and then the post production is complete, and ready for publishing as part of the series.

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Below is a comparison of the before (top) and after image (Bottom)

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