In today’s world of filtering and FaceTune, sometimes we forget there are other edits we can do to make our photos look great. One of my favorite edits to make is to adjust the curves of my photos. Follow this tutorial to find out how!

Now, this is my “before” picture – no editing, no touch-ups, straight from my iPhone. It’s fine – decent lighting, fine contrast. Nothing special. But, admittedly, it could be a lot more impressive.

Step 1

Download the app “A Color Story” from the app store. There are likely other apps that have the capability to do what we’ll be using this one for, but this is what I typically use.

Step 2

Open the app and select your original photo. In this first screen you have the option to crop, tilt, etc. so adjust your horizon line if needed and click Continue.

Step 3

This is the main screen of the app. In the toolbar at the bottom, select Tools.

Step 4

Since we’ve already cropped and/or tilted the horizon line, select Adjust.

Step 5

The edit we are going to be doing is editing the curves of the photo, so select Curves on the next screen.

Step 6

Now we’re going to adjust the curves, which means we are adjusting the photo’s tonal range. The upper righthand area of the image represents highlights, and the lower lefthand area of the image represents lowlights. By pulling and dragging the points on the diagonal line, we will be changing the shape of the curve which will change the appearance of the image.

Step 7

This is my most frequent curve adjustment. I usually pull the original control point in the middle of the line off to the left a bit, then add another control point slightly below on the same line and drag that to the left as well, but not as far.

You can play around with the control points to see how their movement affects your photo.  When you’re happy with the outcome, click the checkmark in the toolbar and the changes will be applied.

Step 8

Click Review > in the top righthand corner and on the next screen, and then Just Save in the lower righthand corner. Your edited image will now be saved to your Photos!

If you are editing a series of images and want to maintain consistency across them, you can  the editing steps you just did by clicking Save Editing Steps above the Add to Grid and Share options. This will save the exact adjustments you made to this photo to your Saved edits sections (which you can access your Saved section on the main screen, as shown in Step 3).

Your final photo should look a lot brighter than your original and, depending on how far you pulled your control points, have a nicer level of contrast. Like I said, feel free to play around with the control points – add more, take some away, and get a better understanding of how they affect your photo.

Now for me, I go one step further and apply my usual filter that I use on Instagram and my blog to the image. I use VSCO’s J5 filter to keep my posts consistent, but will sometimes adjust the level of strength the filter has depending on if it washes out the photo too much (which sometimes happens with this filter).
And here’s my final image! I have found that adjusting the curves really helps to add an extra dimension of professionalism to my photos, and help them to look a little brighter without seeming to be too heavily processed. Try it out, play around with it, and let me know what you think!

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