The Diminishing Role of Curves in Photoshop
The other day I’m sitting at my desk between meetings, and I was thinking about something I wanted to do in Photoshop to a photo I had just taken, and something kind of just popped in my head that really surprised me. It was the realization that I hardly use Curves anymore.
Now, I’m not talking about creating contrast using the Tone Curve in Camera Raw, or Lightroom (because I do that all the time)—-I’m talking about actually color correcting your photos using good old-fashioned Curves (as seen above), or a Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop (which is essentially the same thing).
This kind of freaked me out, because I used to live in Curves—I was in that dialog 50 times a day for years and years, and I couldn’t imagine doing any kind of color correction in Photoshop without it, and now here I am sitting there wondering when the last time I used Curves to color correct a photo. Of course, I knew why I wasn’t using it—it’s because I now do my color correction in Lightroom or Camera Raw (primarily just by properly setting the white balance), and the only time I really need to bring up Curves within Photoshop itself is if I need to fix the color after I’ve already edited the photo in Lightroom or Camera Raw, and that is pretty rare these days.
I wondered if “it’s just me,” so I walked over to my buddy’s Matt Kloskowski’s office and asked him about his Curves use. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he color corrected a photo using Curves. I think we were both a little stunned. We both still use it when we need it, but clearly its role in both our workflows has significantly diminished.
So, I sent a few emails out to some outside Photoshop’s buddies asking about their Curves use in Photoshop, and I was hearing the same thing from them (one wrote, “…very rarely, but I do use it from time to time”). I don’t think this is a bad thing—I think it’s just an evolution of how we use Photoshop today, and I think it’s a good indicator at how much easier the color correction process has become thanks to Lightroom and Camera Raw, and their ability to process and correct Raw, JPEG, and TIFF images.
Anyway, I’d love to hear about your use of Curves, and whether you’re still using Curves as much as you used to, or if you have modified your workflow to reflect the tools we now have at our disposal. I invite you to take the survey below and share where Curves fits into your current workflow.
DISCLAIMER: I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying anything bad about Curves. I love Curves—always have, probably always will—-it’s a beloved part of Photoshop that absolutely still has it’s place and I would hate to think of Photoshop without it. And please don’t go and write, “Scott says not to use Curves anymore.” I’m not saying that at all—I’m just making an observation of how my use of Curves has changed, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on your level of Curves usage.
NOTE: Please only take the survey below if you do, or at one time did, use Curves regularly for color correction in your Photoshop workflow.