Curve adjustment – Photoshop

Like layers, curve adjustments is a way of adjusting the brightness/ darkness levels in an image. The emphasis is put more on contrast and adjusting curves is a very smooth and sophisticated way of adjusting contrast. Because the curve can be ‘s’ shaped, this allows more control than “levels adjustment” because you can affect the shadows and highlights differently.

Open an image in Adobe Photoshop and go to Image – Adjustments – Curves

Image Adjustment Curves


This action will open the curves dialogue box.

Adjusting the shadows

Adjusting the shadows

  1. Click on the line at the intersection as shown
  2. Adjust the output to be 10 points lower than the input level.
  3. The output level should stay around the 65 mark.

Adjusting the highlights and shadows

What happens to the straight line in the curves dialogue box? What happens to your image?

The line starts to curve and your image should get darker. We are adjusting the shadows in your image.

Adjusting the highlights

Adjusting the highlights

Now click on the line in the upper third of the dialogue box. The input value is around 191, for this example, adjust the output to be 10 points higher that the input value (201).

We have created a very gentle ‘S’ shaped curve and the contrast between the highlights and shadows has been increased very slightly and very smoothly.

Left versus right

Left versus right

The left side of the image has no adjustment and the right has very gentle curve adjustment. What do you notice? which side do you prefer and why?

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