with Courtney Slazinik
RAW Editing in ACR & Lightroom Using Tone Curve

Hello again! This week I thought it would be fun to let you into some of my editing techniques. Currently my post processing consists of RAW editing in Lightroom and then I bring it into CS5 for finishing touches. However today I’m going to talk a little about ACR. Lightroom and ACR are a like in many ways and one of those ways is the tone curve. I love the tone curve and it’s a huge part of my post processing and I could not say enough about it.

Please read: A few things I need to state before continuing onto the video. The first, I shoot in RAW. So my processing is what I do to RAW photos. JPEGs can be brought into ACR and Lightroom, however they will edit very different. If you would like to read more about this subject, I did a post about RAW vs JPEG, check it out if you are wondering the difference.

Second, ACR & Lightroom both have an Adobe preset that is default setting in their programs. I have that turned off. My blacks, brightness and contrast are all set to zero unlike the preset that has them at 5, 25 & 50. Just for the exact reason I shoot in manual, I don’t want any of my equipment doing the work for me, I like to have the control. Below is the before and after photo of my RAW edit and then the video. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy help.

  • February 9, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Awesome Melissa! :)

  • February 9, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Great video tutorial! I have yet to delve much into LR but, I’ve been wanting to tackle it and I love the tool trick she shares at the end to lighten or darken a certain part of the picture. Awesome editing tool! Great picture.

    • February 9, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      Thanks Casey! LR has a bit of learning curve if you’re coming over from Photoshop. But seriously, I love it! I’d just take a day and start playing with the sliders and seeing what they do. Then look up some tutorials and start playing. I know Courtney’s got some great ones on here, so be sure to check those out!

  • February 9, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    This is so great! Thanks so much ;)

  • February 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Hello Melissa,

    You said: Second, ACR & Lightroom both have an Adobe preset that is default setting in their programs. I have that turned off.”
    How do you turn that off?

    Thank you very much!

    • February 9, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      Hey Alessandra. Not sure which software you use but I will give you the steps for both. :)

      ACR – Open a photo in ACR and then set all your setting to zero. At the top of the basic panel where it says “basic,” to the right will be a three dot and line button. (Sorry for the awful description.) Click that and then go down and click on “Save New Camera Raw Defaults.” That’s it and then when your reopen it everything will be set to zero.

      LR – On the Import photo screen. Go to the tab that says “Apply During Import,” and choose the drop down menu labeled “develop settings.” Choose the setting that say “General – Zeroed.” That’s it for LR and it’ll do that till you change it.

      Hope that all makes sense. Let me know if you need any more help. :)

      • February 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        I am sorry I didn’t mention, but I use Lightroom! :)
        Thank you very much! It helped a lot!

  • rachel
    February 10, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    thanks melissa! i am just learning to use the tone curve in LR and have a newbie question: how do you identify when to use this tool? i can see how it really enhanced the sample image with backlighting, but i am usually editing a lot of indoor, natural light portraits. any thoughts on how to know when to bust this out? :)

    • February 10, 2012 at 7:29 AM

      Hi Rachel. I use the tone curve on every photo I edit. Of course how I use it depends on the photo. For example here is a link to my latest blog post: http://www.melissanostephotography.com/familyblog/2012/02/08/painting/ This is all natural light, she’s sitting in front of our sliding glass door and there is a window to her left. With both photos my tone curves settings were lights: +43, darks: +23 & shadows: -21. I also did not move any of the tabs on the curve unlike the photo I did in the video. The tone curve can be used for anything. For me I like it better than using the contrast and brightness sliders. I feel I have more control over the what in the photo is lightened and darkened.

      Also I just wanted to point out that I don’t always have my darks on the + side. Sometimes I will have a photo with extreme contrast so my darks are actually in the negatives and I don’t touch the shadows. Honestly just start playing with it. If you don’t like what you’re getting with a certain photo put all the slider back to zero. But once you get the hang of it, it’s so much fun! Hope that helps. :)

      • rachel
        February 10, 2012 at 8:19 AM

        priceless :)! thank you so much for sharing that insight. i like how you compared using the tone curve to the contrast and brightness sliders with more control. loved that cute little painting project, too! i want to be a crafty mama someday….

  • February 10, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    AWESOME! Thanks for sharing Melissa.

  • February 13, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    I have a question about how to turn off the Adobe preset. I am not quite sure what I did, but now when I import any photos in to the LR the preset is a black and white conversion. Shoot I don’t know what I did. Help me please!?

    • February 13, 2012 at 9:57 AM

      Nevermind, I figured it out. Thanks for the tips on the presets. i always hated that there were things done to my pictures before I decided to do anything.

      • February 14, 2012 at 3:03 AM

        I’m glad you figured it out! :)

  • February 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    Great video, Melissa! That’s so cool – I wasn’t aware of that little tool in Lightroom. Thanks for sharing:)

  • Amanda
    February 14, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    Hello Melissa, I use Aperture and in the video I saw that you had it in your tool bar. Would you happen to know the lango on using the tone curve in Aperture. I have played with curves in it a bit, but I know I am not using it to it’s full potential! Thanks!!

    • February 14, 2012 at 3:05 AM

      Yes, I do have Aperture but have to admit I haven’t used it in two years. If you like I could check it out and see if it’s similar to LR. I’ll get back to you on that. :)

      • February 17, 2012 at 6:51 AM

        Hi Amanda. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I took a look at Aperture. Is Aperture the only editing software you have? Have you ever used Photoshop? Curves in Aperture is a lot like that of Photoshop and I can definitely show you some of features it has. Let me know what you have and possibly a bit of what you already know and we can go from there. :)

  • April 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I have lightroom 3 and I am not seeing the tone and curve bar. Is this only in lightroom 4?

    Thank you.

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  • Rachel O'Leary
    November 6, 2014 at 1:28 AM

    I have tried putting my camera on manual and the pictures come out black. What should I do?

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