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With LR4, the Adobe team strongly recommends that you do most of your adjustments with the sliders and use the tone curve only for minor tweaks, if at all.
The main difference is that the sliders, particularly Highlights and Shadows, are "smart" controls that perform local adaptation as well as moving tones on the histogram. For example, the Shadows slider tries to differentiate between a dark tone that is a shadow and the same dark tone that is a normal part of the scene. Not all tones of the same value will be treated the same; it depends on the characteristics of the image and where those tones are located within the image.
The tone curve does straight tone mapping according to the curve, without the local adaptation.
The tone curve in LR does, however, react differently from the tone curve in Photoshop for two primary reasons:
- Hue and saturation react somewhat differently in the LR tone curve compared to the PS one. An LR curve that increases contrast in an area, for example, will increase saturation but less so than a similar curve in PS.
- A tone curve in LR has the ability to recover additional detail in the lighter tones due to the way that raw data is more heavily "packed" to the right side of the histogram.
The Adobe team also recommends that you make adjustments to the basic sliders in the order that they are listed. A given set of slider settings will always produce the same results for a given image no matter what order you used to make the adjustments but the Adobe team feels that you will experience less "tail chasing" (making an adjustment that causes you to go back and re-adjust another slider that you had previously set) if you use the sliders as they are listed.