Gettin’ Freaky With Lightroom Tone-Curve Presets
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Gettin' Freaky Wid'it

So, in my previous post, “Stupid Tone-Curve Tricks”, I presented a few odd tone-curve presets for Lightroom that were of marginal utility. In this post, I present additional presets that are even more useless, if that's at all possible. (If you're not familiar with tone curves in Lightroom 3 beta 2, the aforementioned previous post has an introduction and useful links.)

A Note About “Process Versions”

Two separate downloadable ZIPs of presets are available at the end of this post, one for “Process Version 2012”, the standard develop engine to use for photos newly imported into Lightroom 4, and a ZIP of presets for “Process Version 2010”, which was the standard for Lightroom 3 (and remains the develop engine for those photos even in Lr4 and later, unless you explicitly change the process version in the Develop Module).

Be sure to use the preset appropriate for the photo's process version; otherwise, the preset appears to do nothing.

For more on Lightroom's “Process Versions”, see Laura Shoe's article: “What is that Exclamation Mark Below My Photo in Lightroom 4? If, When, and How to Upgrade to the New Process Version.”

In the presentations below, mouseover the little tone-curve squares under each screenshot to bring up an example of the preset to the screenshot. All the screenshots for a particular section are loaded upon first mouseover in that section, so there may be some initial delay with each if you're on a slow connection.

Like all “wild” tone curves that target specific parts of the histogram, the result for each is highly dependent on the specific photo and its current develop settings — tiny adjustments to a slider can have sweeping, dramatic impact — so the screenshots below show just one view that's likely not at all representative of what you'll see with your photos and settings.

Also, these kind of tone curves are probably more appropriate for black & white images (press “v” while in Lightroom's Develop Module to toggle the color treatment), but I show them here in color because they look more flashy and wild in color. (Hey, if you're going to waste time on something useless, may as well have some fun!)


These tone curves look sort of like a waves...
(They actually look more to me like hacksaw blades, but we won't go there.)



Wave 3A

Wave 4A

Wave 5A

Wave 6A

Wave 7A

Wave 8A

Wave 3B

Wave 4B

Wave 5B

Wave 6B

Wave 7B

Wave 8B
( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Zebra stripes...



Zebra 2

Zebra 3

Zebra 4

Zebra 5

Zebra 6

Zebra 7

Zebra 8
( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Tiger stripes...



Tiger 2

Tiger 3

Tiger 4

Tiger 5

Tiger 6

Tiger 7

Tiger 8

Tiger 9

Tiger 10

Tiger 11

Tiger 12

Tiger 13

Tiger 14

Tiger 15
( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Sort-of cliff shaped curves. These are the most likely to be the least useless...



highlights 1

highlights 2

lowlights 1

lowlights 2

lowlights 3
( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Monitoring the heart of your photos...



EKG1 curve

EKG1 square

EKG2 curve

EKG2 square

EKG3 curve

EKG3 square

EKG4 curve

EKG4 square








( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Filters to let in only a slice of a certain brightness...


( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )


Like “notch”, but as absolutely thin as possible...


Sliver 1

Sliver 2

Sliver 3

Sliver 4

Sliver 5

Sliver 6

Sliver 7

Sliver 8

Sliver 9

( mouse over the graph thumbnail to select it )

By the way, the photo is from my autumn “Teeming Throngs Enjoying the Colors at Kyoto's Eikando Temple” post.

Here are zips with all these presets, one for Process Version 2012 (Lr4 and later), and another for Process Version 2010 (Lr3 and later):


Install instructions are in my previous post.

In coming up with these presets, I tried not to be limited by what might be useful, though I did draw the line at a set of randomly-generated curves (after giving it a few trys 🙂 ). This was all a monumental waste of time to build and writeup, but it was fun. On the odd chance that you find any of them to be actually useful, leave a comment with a link so everyone can see.

All 18 comments so far, oldest first...

So many possible responses to this post…

1) I’m glad you didn’t use my kid for these (like you did for the previous preset post),
2) To think of the amount of productive work that could have been done,
3) I think this is what Adobe was trying to prevent us from doing by not including this functionality in the first two versions, or
4) “Tiger” is actually very cool! I’m going to have to download these

— comment by Zak on March 29th, 2010 at 7:03pm JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Its not so much the results, its the presentation. These items really make us cringe when they are presentedas photographs. (And you’re not doing that.) In the right context these could almost be bearable…

“What?” “No, I have no idea what the right context would be :o) “

— comment by Ron Evans on March 29th, 2010 at 11:45pm JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Neither do I.

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on March 29th, 2010 at 11:56pm JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I think Ron and Grandma are completely missing the point.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on March 30th, 2010 at 12:04am JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

A context? “Notch” and “Silver” can be useful to make isophote maps of nebulaes in astronomical imaging… 🙂

— comment by Denis Pagé on March 30th, 2010 at 12:32am JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

“Most likely to be least useless….”

I don’t even care what you do with Lr, Jeffrey, I just love the way you write. 🙂

Reminds me of a graffito I saw in the Math department 35 years ago in college.
“Almost everywhere, is everywhere, except for almost nowhere.”

— comment by Brad Snyder on March 30th, 2010 at 9:36am JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Your last Sliver series reminds me of my earlier work with Agfa Contour film.
Needless to say a lot easier in Lightroom or combined in Photoshop.

— comment by Douglas Elford on April 6th, 2010 at 3:37pm JST (14 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

strange things to do with your photos highly psychadelic and lots of fun!

— comment by Lumen on May 1st, 2010 at 9:57am JST (14 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

WOW!!! You opened my eyes. Never thought there was that much flexibility in the tone curves in 3!

— comment by Ray O Moonshine on July 14th, 2010 at 10:53pm JST (14 years ago) comment permalink

Very interesting effects and great usage of tone curves. I liked them all (in spite of what Grandma and Ron said!!). One idea that came to mind is to use those effects in a video. I enjoyed “scrolling” thru the curves and watching the “precession” of views – if I could just automate that and create a short clip…

Side Note: I want to thank you for all the amazing tools you have created!

— comment by Bob Miller on September 12th, 2010 at 3:26am JST (13 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

how do you move the end points (black and white) up and down? the curves.

Are you asking about how to do it in the UI? I generated these computationally, so came up with results that are not likely possible in the UI. —Jeffrey

— comment by czarina on July 12th, 2012 at 2:00am JST (12 years ago) comment permalink

This was one of the most educational posts I’ve seen in a long time. Love it!
All of the presets may not be useful for photographers’ workflows, but they are immensely useful to convey the ways and extremes in which digital pictures can be manipulated.

— comment by Filip on July 25th, 2012 at 4:13am JST (12 years ago) comment permalink

Great idea. Very inspiring!

— comment by Christian K. on July 29th, 2012 at 6:44pm JST (12 years ago) comment permalink

Great Work. And much thanks for sharing it…
I would love use these effects on my pictures…

— comment by Ravi Bhupatani on August 23rd, 2012 at 12:43pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi, my 15 year old granddaughter has started a 2 year photography course as part of her GCSEs (age 16 final exams in the UK). She was having trouble understanding tone curves, but these presets are a fabulous educational tool, demonstrating the tone curve in an entertaining way!

Thank you…

— comment by Dave on May 23rd, 2013 at 2:26pm JST (11 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks Jeff, had a lot of fun with these. I had a close up of a cow’s nose that is now wow! 🙂

Melbourne, Australia

— comment by John Godfrey on November 10th, 2013 at 9:11am JST (10 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

And here’s the cow:

Freaky! Looks like it could have been taken with an electron microscope. —Jeffrey

— comment by John Godfrey on November 10th, 2013 at 9:40am JST (10 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Really enjoyed your blog. Many thanks for taking the trouble to do this. I just do not understand those with their negative comments.
You are really helping an awful lot of folk here. Really inspired stuff and I’m so grateful for these great ideas.
I’m a keen photographer / artist and will definitely keep my eyes on your blog.
Thanks again from Loughborough (Leicestershire UK)

— comment by Robert Fielding on April 5th, 2014 at 11:14pm JST (10 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink
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