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Photoshop Curves Layer: Brighten and sharpen your image!

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

Today I want to talk about my favorite photoshop layer. It’s a layer that I use on every single photo! A simple layer that can make a drastic difference! It’s the curves layer!

I want to start diving more into the editing process of photos. It’s really where you can turn a mediocre photo into a spectacular photo! A place where you can turn it into something you need to hang on the wall! While the shooting process is super important (after all you need to have the right bones to work with) the editing process is where you can really bring it to life!

The curves layer is my favorite photoshop layer and a layer that I use in every photo. I use the photoshop curves layer to both brighten my photo and sharpen the shadows.

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

The Photoshop Curves Layer:

Understanding the properties:

The photo below is what your curves layer will look like! Put simply, the top right of the line represents the white point, which you can use to adjust the whites in the photo, and the bottom left is the black point, which you can use to adjust the blacks in the photo. That leaves the mid tones right there all through out the middle.

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

Roughly, moving these points up toward the highlights brightens the photos, therefore showing off the highlights, while moving these points into the shadows, tends to sharpen the darker tones and enhance the shadows.

Today I’m sharing how I both brighten my photos and sharpen the shadows with just this one layer.

Apply the Curves layer:

To apply the curves layer, you could always go up to…

Layer -> Adjustment Layer -> Curves

Or you could short cut and click on the half black and half white circle at the bottom of the Layers and then click curves! (Shown below!)

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

Brighten and sharpen your image with the curves layer:

1. Leave the white point alone.

When brightening the photo, I want as much light as possible to brighten the photo! So I leave the white point as is.

2. Drag the mid tones up.

I always like to brighten up the mid tones in my photos. To do this, click on the center of the tone line and drag it upward. It turns the straight line into a curve. (Shown below.)

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

3. Drag the dark point to the right a little bit.

I find that I usually need to sharpen the shadows (or dark tones) once I brighten up the mid tones for my usual overexposed look. To do this, you can see I dragged dark point (the left end of the line) to the right just a bit increasing the arch. (Shown above.)

And that’s it! That’s my single favorite edit that I apply to every photo!

How to brighten images and sharpen details using the curves layer in Photoshop!

Was this helpful? I’d love to get your feedback as I want to continue with this style of post every Wednesday!

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  • Emily Lindsey

    Wow this is excellent! I’ve never used Photoshop before (just Lightroom) but this makes it seem so easy! Great tutorial! xx
    http://www.happilylindsey.com

  • Bxrsnkds

    So simple when you know it! Wow! Thanks so much :-).