5 Tips on How to Use Lightroom’s Tone Curves Panel

Lightroom’s Tone Curves panel can give you a huge amount of control — if you know how to use it. This video offers you a deep dive into understanding how the various elements work and gives you an extra tool when it comes to editing your photos.

Pye Jirsa has a reputation for breaking down complex subjects into easily digestible lessons, and this is no exception. For those new to Lightroom, the Tone Curve can be intimidating for a number of reasons, not least because relatively small adjustments can have dramatic effects over the entire image, but also because it seems to replicate what can be achieved with sliders elsewhere.

Jirsa shows how this duplication is actually an advantage rather than an obstacle, giving you greater control over your edit, especially if you make changes in the right order.

If you struggle to make refined adjustments to the Tone Curve, keep in mind that holding the Alt/Option key will slow down the speed of the mouse drag. Given that the slightest movement can produce dramatic results — especially in the color channels — this keyboard shortcut makes life a lot easier.

Do you have any further tips for making the most of the Tone Curve? Let us know your ideas in the comments below.

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6 Comments

jay holovacs's picture

Am I allowed to say I like the original a lot better? Something about that dark foreground leading back to the highlighted subject.

Mark Smith's picture

I tend to agree, but I still liked seeing the many options to choose from.

Nick Rains's picture

If you need such fine control you should really be using Photoshop which is way more powerful for this kind of subtle work. I never use Curves in LR because they are so fiddly - and if I do need them for some reason then I will cmd-E to Photoshop and cmd-s back.

Mark Smith's picture

Well worth watching, thank you.

Edo Photo's picture

Been using these curve techniques for years. Once i discovered them i never looked back. When you get it down packed you can pop open any raw in any editor and just get to work without bothering too much with sliders.

I tend to use the temperature slider for mood control though. Good stuff, my day is even brighter now!

Sam Hood's picture

Great tutorial, but now I need to upgrade to Lightroom CC to get Parametric & RGB Tone Curves, plus all of the other updates I'm missing out on!