If you’ve never driven a standard transmission, it’s possible you’ve wondered why anyone would bother with a car that involves extra work to drive. Sure, you look cool doing it… But seriously, foot-hand coordination? Why?

One word: Control. The Tone Curves tool is like the stick shift of photo light and color adjustments. Yes, you can use lighting and exposure tools, but Tone Curves gives you a whole other level of control over the tonal range. You can select specific colors, (red, blue, or green), to adjust, or the entire range of the image. And then still adjust lighting and exposure after and beyond to get the image just how you like it.

Let us first look at adjusting contrast and learn how the tool works. Begin with an image in Edit mode (or Develop for non-destructive adjustments if you’re a Pro or Ultimate user). In the Exposure/Lighting section, open the Tone Curves tool.

open_curves

Inside the tool, notice the bars on either side of the x and y axis of the graph.

input

The dark area of the bar represents the shadows in your image. The middle represents the midtones, and the white area is the lightest parts of your image. You’re ultimately trying to improve the contrast of the image by changing which pixels map to the brighter area of the graph and which map to the darker area.

s_curve

Let’s take a closer look. The following photo is nothing special, but it is helpful for demonstrating the concept behind the graph. The input, represented on the x axis, shows you what tonal range the pixels in your image fall into. The Output, or the y axis, shows you where any of the given tones are mapped to. Look at any point on your x axis, find where it hits on the curve (the line through the graph), and then find where that hits the y axis: this is where the tone is being mapped to. As you can see in the histogram of this image, most of the pixels are concentrated in the area closest to where the axes converge — the shadows. And, as we haven’t made any changes yet, their output is also mapped to the shadows.

dark_tone_example

Now, for the sake of understanding, check out what happens when I move the curve down.

Curve_down

Even the pixels at the lightest point on the x axis are mapped low into the shadowy area on the y axis, hence the image is almost entirely black. Conversely, on this image below, I have moved the curve up, so even the darkest pixels on the x axis are mapped high into the light area of the y axis, and therefore, the image is significantly lightened.

curve_up

Generally, you want to achieve heightened contrast in your image. And this is done by what we call an “S curve”. It’s when you make an S with the curve, (you don’t say!), dragging the shadow section down, darkening the darkest pixels, and dragging the lights up into the highlight section, lightening the whitest pixels in the image. However, it’s important to note that you can’t add contrast to one tonal region without decreasing it in another region. The steeper you make the curve in the shadow region, the more detail you will get.

This image starts out kind of flat.

flat

But then—Tone Curves tool! Through an S curve, I made the dark darker and the light lighter, achieving greater overall contrast.

after_s_curve

But this is what happens if you get out of hand….Ok, it’s kind of fun.

crazy

Adjusting the Tone Curves tool is a useful time to take advantage of the Exposure Warning. Exposure Warning (blue)1 In the upper left corner of the tool, enable the button in order to display clipped shadows and highlights. Click the icon or press E on the keyboard, to highlight over- and under-exposed areas of the image.

You can also adjust the tonal range on a color by color basis. From the Channel drop-down menu, choose a color channel.

select_channel

Play with the curve to get the effect you want. Less is more if you are seeking a natural look.

red_colour_channel

From this point, you can really take it wherever you want, be that adjusting it in other tools, or being satisfied and sharing it in a variety of ways. That’s basically it. Hopefully this has shed some light on how to use the Tone Curves tool. I know at first I found the look of this graph as daunting as my first hill start in a standard. (A graph?? I don’t do math!) But once you understand how it works, it’s easy to get your lighting, color, and contrast show on the road. ;D

 

In the latest release of ACDSee, ACDSee Pro, and ACDSee Ultimate, a nifty little feature was added for the creative on the go.

So you’re browsing your images in View mode, making decisions about the fate of the shots in that particular album. For example, could some of these look great with a special effect? You’re thinking that maybe a certain photo might look decent in black and white. Ordinarily, you would take that image into Edit or Develop mode to find out for sure. But now, you get a sense of how it will look on the fly, without having to leave View mode. Here’s how:

With your image open in View mode, press the Auto Lens button. auto_lens_button

auto_lens

Then, select the filter you want to try out. It’s worth mentioning that this is a commitment-free preview of what these effects would look like. You are not applying the filter to the file.

choose_filter

If you want to try out this effect on a number of photos, use the Filmstrip or Previous/Next button to preview more images with your selected filter. The Lens will remain turned on in View mode until you turn it off.

To turn off your selected filter, press the Auto Lens button and select None.

select_none

There is also another button following the same concept but for an exposure boost. It’s called Auto EQ and it’s located right next to the Auto Lens button. auto_eq_button Before Auto EQ:

before_eq

After Auto EQ:

after_eq

This tool takes the guesswork out of assessing an image’s exposure. And, perhaps in some cases, helps to quickly establish which ones are worth the time of actually adjusting. Hurray! Time saving!

 

Well here it is: The definitive aperture, shutter speed, and ISO guidance!

photography

 

 

things_arranged

Turns out there’s a blog out there for all of us anal, OCD-types, but for photography inspiration! Check out Things Organized Neatly.

a

In Edit mode, I used Lens Distortion Correction to alter the perspective and give the clouds more of a presence.

Then, in Lighting on the Equalizer tab, I used the Auto button. And then darkened the clouds by dragging on the photo.

Then in Advanced Color, I upped the Vibrance and Saturation sliders slightly to give the photo more interest. I didn’t go crazy on this, though, because I wanted the colors to remain natural-looking.

Then in the Clarity tool, I upped the slider to give the sand more definition.

And that is that! Five minutes later, my image is completely transformed.

before_after

As you may or may not recall, a while back I posted a tutorial taking a look at Pixel Targeting. At the end of that tutorial, I did promise that we would eventually look at a variety of Pixel Targeting applications. Well, we took a break to look at some other functions, but we’re back! Let us now explore!

As a quick reminder, Pixel Targeting allows you to target distinct tones, colors, and skin tones, and then select any number of Edit mode adjustments and apply them to those targeted colors, tones, or skin tone.

I find this picture pretty drab. It probably doesn’t help that I was there and my eyes told me it was pretty spectacular.

IMG_2465

I would like to make the colors pop a bit, but I also want it to still look realistic, and not like a fantasy seascape. (Fantasy seascape has its place, but that’s just not what I’m into today.) So I open the image in Edit mode, and then enter Advanced Color. If I indiscriminately pump up the Saturation and Vibrance, it gets a bit much. It doesn’t look very realistic… It looks a bit insane. Look at those umbrellas! It’s like a carnival.

saturation_vibrance

It’s true that you could just up the color value on the blues and greens by dragging your cursor up on the water and the trees, for example.

blue_green_raised

But then all of the greens and blues in the image are heightened, which leaves the rocks looking pretty green and the sky a bit nutty. Maybe you’re thinking I’m getting a bit picky. But what I’m thinking is: it’s Pixel Targeting Time. At the top of the panel on the left side, I press the Pixel Targeting button. Under Targeted Tones, I press Min. This deselects all tones. Then under Targeted Colors, I press Min. This deselects all colors. Now I can choose only the specific colors I want to target. In other words, I can choose to ignore the lightest or darkest version of a specific color, or any tone in between. Just stay with me, it’ll make sense.

Here we are with everything at neutral. Note that the Target Mask is black, which means that nothing is being targeted.

neutral

Say, for argument’s sake, I wanted to just target the blue of the sky, while ignoring the blue of the ocean and the accents on the boats and houses and such. In the Targeted Tones section, I turn the lightest value up to Max, and on the Targeted Colors section, I turn the blue value up to Max. You can see on the Target Mask that the sky is displayed in white. The white illustrates which part of the photo is being targeted. The sky is the lightest blue value in the photo, hence, it’s targeted.

target_mask_light_blue

Now if I expand the Targeted Tones to include more light values, you’ll notice that more areas are lit up in the Target Mask. That part of the water matches the criteria of being blue, (which we’ve targeted), and an almost mid-range lightness.

more_tones_targeted

Now that we’ve acquainted ourselves with the concepts behind using Advanced Color with Pixel Targeting, let’s move on. My goal is to target just the ocean and the trees. But I want to leave the sky alone, as I’ve already discovered that nothing natural looking has come from me messing with it. So I experiment with targeting different tones until I find the one that displays the ocean in white in the Target Mask — directly in the middle. I now add green to the Targeted Colors to target the trees. Then I use the Saturation and Vibrance sliders to make the colors pop specifically in the targeted areas. I even drag my cursor up on the trees for more green. This didn’t affect the seaweed, as it would without Pixel Targeting, because the seaweed isn’t within the tonal ranges targeted. Et Voilà! Observe how the colors of the ocean and trees stand out, but the colors of the rocks are still natural. This, I feel, makes the difference between something vibrant, yet still realistic-looking, versus the circus-and-sequins catastrophe above, when I just indiscriminately raised the saturation and vibrance across the entire photo.

result

Let’s compare this with the original.

before_after_colour

It’s subtle, but a definite improvement, I think.

Pixel Targeting can be used in a variety of ways—some very subtle, some much less subtle. Happy playing!

I’d like to take a quick look at a nifty little feature that was added to ACDSee back around the release of ACDSee 18 and Pro 8, and is also found in Ultimate 8. It’s possible that it could slip under the radar because, unlike other new features, PicaView is not actually visible inside ACDSee. I know, sounds devious. But, in fact, PicaView couldn’t be more transparent. That is, in a way, its function. ACDSee PicaView is a quick file viewer add-on for File Explorer. Well, what the heck does that mean? It means that when you’re browsing away in Windows Explorer and you’re trying to find that one specific file, you’re going to save quite a bit of time.

Before PicaView, I found it particularly bad when I was looking for a certain image, but it was in a folder full of several hundred similar images all taken in the same setting, at the same time. With PicaView, you can simply right-click an image and see a larger version of it in your context menu, reducing the wild goose chase to a very tame duck chase….not even a chase. You just find it. You “catch” the duck before it even started waddling away.

picaview

PicaView will allow you to identify the image you’re looking for without having to launch it in a viewing application. It saves so much time! You can use it on any image file type supported by ACDSee.  This works on RAW files, too. And, in addition to viewing a preview of the image, you can also view the EXIF information.

did_flash

Did the flash fire on that pic? Well, let me just check on that. Right-click!

flash_no

Why, no. No, it did not. How easy was that?

If I want to launch the image in ACDSee, I just need to click the preview.

open_in_acdsee

I can also customize the size that the image previews in, what version of the image displays, etc. To reach the options, right-click an image file. At the top of the preview, click ACDSee PicaView | Options. In the Options dialog, you can elect to have it so that when you right-click, your image displays in a sub-menu, rather than the main menu. You can also choose a size for the image preview.

 

Small small
Medium medium
Large large
Extra Large extra_large

You can also select the Show Original checkbox, and what this does is ensures that even if you’re viewing images that have been edited or developed, you will see a preview of the original.

Lastly, you can toggle the Show EXIF Information checkbox. You would turn off this checkbox if you only wanted to see a preview of the image and didn’t care to see the EXIF info.

And that’s all there is to it. Hope you enjoy this quick previewing feature designed to make life just that little bit easier.