This is a new feature introduced to Lightroom and Lightroom Classic in April 2023. It arrived in the same update as the new Lightroom AI Denoise feature, so it would be easy to overlook it, given all the fuss over the AI denoising.
It’s one of those features where you think hey, why did this take so long? Lightroom’s masking tools are pretty amazing these days, but the actual adjustments available once you’ve created a mask remain pretty thin.
And it does seem pretty extraordinary that it’s taken Adobe until now to introduce Curves into its local adjustments. Previously, you had to fiddle around with White and Black points, Exposure and Contrast to get the same effect, and it wasn’t always easy.
But it’s here now, it’s really useful and it works pretty much as you would expect. Once you’ve created a mask, there’s a new Curve panel in the mask adjustments panel alongside the existing tools. This looks pretty much like the Curve panel in the regular global adjustments, though there’s no Parametric adjustment option, only Point curve adjustments, which is what most of us will be familiar with anyway.
You can edit a combined luminosity curve for all three channels combined, and you can also edit the red green and blue channels individually for adding color shifts. There’s also a targeted adjustment gadget – when you select this, you can drag up and down directly on the image to change the tone value of that area.
I think I’m going to find local Curve adjustments most useful on skies, where curves are often the simplest and quickest way to increase contrast and shift colors where necessary.
Capture One users will be reading all this and raising their eyes skywards. In Capture One you can apply practically all the global adjustments (bar color profiles) to individually masked layers. While Capture One doesn’t have Lightroom’s AI subject detection and masking, it does offer far more sophisticated editing tools for masked adjustment layers.
It would be nice if Adobe could put a little more effort into its Camera Raw processing and demosaicing engine now, or at least take another look at its default sharpening and noise reduction settings. It produces fine detail that’s noticeably grittier and softer than that from Capture One or DxO PhotoLab/PureRAW.
- Capture One vs Lightroom
- DxO vs Lightroom vs Capture One for RAW processing
- Lightroom Tone Curves explained
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