Customizing Tone Curve in Lightroom

Original Histogram
If you use Lightroom and would like to attain the look of presets that you typically have to purchase but would rather make your own then look no further.

Lightroom at the surface is quite simple, but mastering it can take quite a while if you don't have the patience to play with it.

Many options are hidden away or buried in menus so they can be difficult to find. Most can be accessed by use the Shift, Control (Ctrl) or Alt key on a PC or Option on a Mac.
Modified Histogram

Typically your histogram will look like the one on the right (see Original Histogram). To give it that film look you have to adjust the black and white points that are used and shrink the dynamic range of your image (see Modified Histogram).

By shifting your black and white points you will limit the range of tones in your image and give it an interesting look. This may not work for every image and every image will be different, but this is how those filters on your phone or presets you purchase from companies like VSCO work.

Original Tone Curve

While editing your image in Develop mode, simply go to the Tone Curve box and select the small box in the lower right corner (see Original Tone Curve).

Modified Tone Curve
Now select the bottom left point (black) and drag it to a new position. Where is completely up to you, but it should be somewhere along the diagonal dotted line. Now do the same for the point in the upper right (white).

If you want to increase the contrast of your image then you can add a third point in the middle of the two points and drag it upwards away from the dotted line, or to reduce contrast move it below the dotted line.

Your tone curve will now look something like the following (see Modified Tone Curve).

To the right is the original image with no adjustments.


To the right is the modified image with an adjusted tone curve (see Modified Tone Curve).

You may not see a huge difference in this image, but if you look carefully in the darker areas you will see that the detail in the blacks and background has less detail and is "muddy" looking.

Now that you have the basics you can save this as a preset or make more changes using the options available in develop mode.

Final Image