A question we get from a lot of users is how to use the curves tool. It may seem intimidating at first, but is extremely helpful when making more precise edits on your photo. You may wonder what the point of curves is if there is already an exposure and contrast tool. With curves, you have more room to affect certain areas of your photos without affecting the whole thing! This tool is a necessity for photographers because most of the time one single filter isn’t going to give you the exact look. You will have to do tweaks using curves if you’re wanting to get the most out of the filter.
The first thing to know about curves is to understand what each point on the curve line represents. The top point controls the highlights, the middle point controls the midtones, and the lowest point controls the shadows. The highlights are the brightest parts of your photo, the midtone is the overall brightness, and the shadows are the dark points of your photo.Before you make any edits, trying moving the points around to see how they affect the image.
Did You Know?
Tap on the curves line to add points if you want even more precise editing.
One thing to remember when using curves is that any point you move will affect that part of the photo. So if you’re wanting to deepen the shadows without affecting anything else, move the shadow point (bottom left). If you’re wanting to brighten the highlights, move the highlight point (top right). If you’re wanting to do an overall brightness or darkness, move the midtone point.
Let’s look at some photo examples:
Here is a photo without any edits, then with only curves applied, and then with a filter applied.
I wanted my shadows to be more muted, so I moved the shadow point up a bit. I also wanted to mute the highlights so I moved the highlight point down a bit.
Again, here is a photo with no edits, then a photo with only curves applied, then the same photo with a filter and effects applied on top. For this photo I wanted to play around with the colored curves. I first moved around the midtone curve point while it was set on red, then I moved the midtone curve point again while it was set on green.
If you take anything from this tutorial, it’s to just play around with it and don’t be afraid to go a little crazy! The more you use it the more you will know exactly where to move it to get the look you’re going for.