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how-to-use-tone-curves-lightroom-video-tutorial Post Production Tips

How to Use Tone Curves to Adjust Image Exposure and Contrast in Lightroom 3

By Pye Jirsa on June 17th 2011

(The Lightroom video tutorial in this post is just under the introductory text below. The working files for this Lightroom video tutorial can be found just above the video.)

Tone Curves are very misunderstood creatures of the Photoshop and Lightroom world. For some reason, the majority of us tend to avoid using Tone Curves most likely due to not understanding them all that well.

However, Tone Curves are extremely useful and powerful ways of adjusting overall image brightness and contrast as you can have control over specific areas of your image, such as the shadows, or the highlights.

In this Lightroom video tutorial, we will help you to understand Lightroom’s Tone Curve feature in a simple and intuitive way. We will work through an image showing you how to adjust the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights in various different ways.


Exercise File Download Links:

Note: These images have been provided to the SLR Lounge users curteousy of Lin and Jirsa Photography for educational purposes only. They may not be used in any other manner outside of these SLR Lounge learning videos without the express written consent of Lin and Jirsa Photography. Thank you.

Full RAW Exercise Files (265MB) – For faster connections. The full RAW files will allow you to follow the tutorials while achieving the exact same results as shown.
JPEG Exercise Files (24MB) – For slower connections. The JPEG files will allow you to follow the tutorials, although the results may vary due to not having the image details of the full RAW file.

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Click here to purchase Adobe Lightroom 3 from

2) Student and Teacher Editions of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 – For teachers and students, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is available for $89 through the Adobe Educational Purchasing Site.

Post Production Pye
SLR Lounge Senior Editor
Partner ofLin and Jirsa Photography

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Nice video.

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  2. Kim

    Awesome videos!  I just found your site, and I’m a long time LR user, but am picking up some new tricks.  One question that I haven’t seen answered well…if you can use the tone curve and/or the basic panel for contrast, etc., – WHICH one takes precedent?  I know the tone curve is more precise, but does that mean that the basic panel setting should be left at default if one is to use the curve settings instead?  I think there is room for overkill here, which I see ALL the time!  Thanks for your hard work.  Amazing stuff.

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