For a long time I have been lazy. Lazy with my landscape photos. While stating that “If I need more than 30 seconds to make the image look good, it’s trash” might be an idea, some images still deserve a little extra to show up nicely.

20200229-DSC_3990-PC Whites

Let’s start with the final result of a very simple image.

The final image of this post is the first one, don’t worry we’ll get back to it.

A few weeks ago I was in a park during a morning of heavy hoarfrost. I snapped a picture of a lone, standing tree and thought no more of it. When I got home, the picture looked like this:

20200229-DSC_3990-Imported

This is the image as imported from the camera, no development applied.

20200229-DSC_3990-2-Auto

As usual, I applied the Auto button for a good start,

20200229-DSC_3990-4-Blacks

then shift double click on Blacks

20200229-DSC_3990-5-Whites

And shift double click on Whites to define the optimal white point of the picture.

To be honest, the picture didn’t inspire me and it remained in the Lightroom Library, discarded, but just a little too good to be deleted permanently. I often keep these pictures in case a new version of Lightroom, or a new plugin or other program comes along and can do what I had in mind.

A few weeks later, I thought about the Tone Curve. I blogged about that Tone Curve about 10 years ago when it was first introduced in Lightroom 3. The download link is (obviously) no longer valid there, but the rest of the post is.

More or less.

So I started off again with my basic import like this:

20200229-DSC_3990-Imported

Don’t try to find differences, this is the same picture as above Smile. No settings applied.

Then I started playing a bit with the Tone Curve. I selected the Point Curve in the Tone Curve panel as this is the most flexible and most dangerous type of curve. My previous post about this shows what can go wrong if you overdo it.

First, I deformed the point curve from the regular straight (neutral, do-nothing) line into an “S” curve:

imageNote that the “S” is kind of irregular, not a basic shape.

The picture now looked like this:

20200229-DSC_3990-PointCurve

Still a bit dark, but already with a lot more “pop”. Since I am still lazy, I then applied my regular Auto button and came up with this:

20200229-DSC_3990-Curve Auto

Still not happy I added the Black point using Shift+DoubleClick on the Blacks in the basic panel

20200229-DSC_3990-PC Blacks

And then again the same for the whites.

20200229-DSC_3990-PC Whites

Just to show that the image result from my Basic treatment and the Extra treatment with the Tone curve makes a nice difference, here are the two side by side:

Auto+Blacks+WhitesTone Curve+Auto+Blacks+Whites

Left, Auto+Blacks+Whites, right Tone Curve+Auto+Blacks+Whites

As you can see, there is quite the difference between the two. I can hear you argue that these pictures are mostly Black and White pictures, I agree. But just imagine what you can do with this same Tone Curve on a near (but not quite) perfect image of a different nature?

Try out that Tone Curve, but remember one thing, if nothing else, “a little is already a lot!” in the tone curve. It’s very easy to overdo it and ruin a (near) perfectly good picture.