Tips for beauty bloggers: Let’s talk curves.

The Photoshop kind, not the body kind. (But hey, if you want to talk humans-with-curves in the comments, you go right ahead. The world could use a little less skinny ’round here! Just keep it PG-13, you hear?)

Long story short, I’ve been working on a Clinique Quickliner Intense review, and I’m halfway done, but I’m really, really tired. So, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday for that, but this: this, you can have now.

A sad, lonely, unedited March snowfall photo.

The basics

This isn’t actually an in-depth curves tutorial; rather, I feel like I need to periodically remind people that they exist. They’re ridiculously easy (and ridiculously handy), and can be used in anything from vignetting, to increasing contrast and brightening up photos, to doing that hipster-faded thing.

Curves – brighter (think of it like a screen layer), darker (think of it like a multiply layer).

Unless you’ve gone and inverted your axes, pulling the curve upwards is going to add brightness, an S curve is going to increase contrast, and pulling the curve downwards will increase shadows. Dragging the endpoints inwards will add a more harsh change; think of it as brightening or darkening the shadows, rather than the midpoints. A curve in which the lower point is farther from the x=y line than the upper point will decrease contrast, doing that old-photograph thing that people seem to be into at the moment.

Curves – more contrast; less.

Curves – pronounced hilights; pronounced shadows.

Have a go at it; play around. The great thing about digital manipulation is that all of it can be undone, after all! And don’t think that you ever have to use all of one curve – feel free to lasso a selection, feather the edges (or not), and just add a curves layer where you want it.

So: here’s four variations of the photo at the top of this post. Edmonton’s being a bit temperamental this Spring (not going to lie; I kind of love it), so here’s what a few different curves layers can do. (It was a bit hard to see the differences when they were all just sequential, so I went and turned it into a gif. Each is on a two-second delay, and there’s only four frames, so don’t stare for too terribly long!)

(Seriously, guys. Nothing much to see here, just a fantastically depressingly snowy scene.)

More beauty blogging bits and bites… (well, minus the “bites”)

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  • Oh Rae. As if I couldn't love you any more, you explained Curves for me in a way which actually kept my attention, instead of blahblahblahing about it like every single help guide on the internet. <3

    • :D Hurray! I hope you find them a bit less confusing the next time you have to use them ;o)

  • I love this post! I also love to use my curves, haha! Can't live without them! They can instantly make a kind of crappy picture better :).
    My recent post Mac Eye Shadow

    • :) Glad you liked the post, lovely!! It's awesome to see another blogger out there who's reliant on Curves layers ;) (I feel like most bloggers use levels, which I can't for the life of me seem to get a good hold on. I always feel like I can't get quite specific enough with them, y'know?)

  • Rae, you are a doll. Really, you are.

  • Super handy! I’m saving this somewhere. I’ve tried playing with curves a bit before but never understood it too well, so bless you Rae!

  • cclarebear

    There are some style bloggers I like that always have really muted shades in their photos, and it really is down to the curves. It took me a while to work it out – it's just a bit of a bummer as a beauty blogger that I can't do it *as* much because lip swatches etc have to be as true to life as possible :(

    Love your explanation though – makes it so much easier to understand! And the gif was cute – I almost wish it was still snowing in London…
    My recent post French Perfume: Lostmarc’h Ael-Mat EDT & Soap

    • Yep, curves and layers! A lot of the style blog photos I see around are definitely tinted, too – hue and colour layers are great for that (not at max capacity), and some of the photo filters can be handy, too.

      And I totally get what you mean – I keep the photos fairly standard/basic on theNotice, because I feel like it's more important to have an accurate photo than a really aesthetically pleasing one, you know?

  • AdorableOnYourVanity

    I'm so sorry about the snow :( It IS very depressing!

  • Looks like my backyard too. :P
    My recent post Rescuing MAC Prunella Eye Kohl From My Make Up Black Hole

  • Thanks for posting such useful info; I had no idea how to make curves previously! Except, of course, the real life curves. Got plenty of that over here! ;)
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