Hack No More! – The Lightroom 3 Tone Curve

When you launch Lightroom 3 and head over to the Develop Module, you may notice some minor differences from Lightroom 2.

The point of interest today is located in the Tone Curve palette. At first glance you see the old, friendly Parametric Tone Curve tool Lightroom has had since day one.

But look closer.

edit point curve button in tone curve

At the bottom, as indicated in the image, is a small button. In the Point Curve part of the palette, next to the Curve Contrast drop menu is located the Edit Point Curve button. Give it a click.

control points on the tone curve

With that click, the Parametric sliders disappear and the Tone Curve line becomes populated with control points. Lightroom finally has caught up with Adobe Camera Raw when it comes to control of the Tone Curve! Editing in Point Curve mode is simple, just click on a point and drag it where you want it to go.

playing with the tone curve

A simple right click on an errant control point allows you to delete the offending plot.

deleting control points on the tone curve

You are also presented with the option to Flatten Curve, if you want to start with a blank canvas. This removes all the control points except the anchor points at either side of the curve.

flattening the line on the tone curve

To add new points again, simply click along the line.

adding new control points on the tone curve

Then click and drag points around however you like, you can even make a negative curve.

dragging control points on the tone curve

In the past, this required taking your file into ACR to make changes to the Tone Curve and then re-import your image back into Lightroom to bring your new curve with you. At that time you could save it as a preset and modify it from there, but it was always a hack and never felt right. With Lightroom 3 you have control over the Tone Curve again.

Bend it to your will!

Now if we could just get RGB Curves in Lightroom …

Brandon Oelling

Hi there! I'm Brandon Oelling, the founder of XEQUALS. My team and I believe deep in our hearts that inside every one of us is an amazing photographer.

  1. Hot damn! I just found your site and I’m loving it! Keep up the great work and thank you for taking the time to post all of this information.

  2. I’d love to get RGB curves in LR3. I do a fair amount of infrared photography and I use Elements to do some mods to the image. I don’t have PS (too expensive) so have to make do. Getting RGB curves (and channel mixing too!) would be wonderful.

  3. lovin this site as well. The articles are def. more advanced than the other sites I follow. Keep up the great work.

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