Tutorial: How to Easily Replicate a Photo’s ‘Look’ Using Curves

It’s happened to all of us: we’re browsing through someone’s portfolio or even just through Flickr or 500px and we come across a photograph or series of photographs with a ‘look’ we absolutely love.

From there, we usually dive into our own photo archives and try to replicate that style/look, but rarely does it come out anywhere near as professional looking as the original photo. Thankfully this 2012 tutorial by London-based journalist and designer Ben Secret can help you apply just about any photo’s look to another.

Speaking via email to Redditor ColinStonePeacock, Secret explained that this method came to be through a workflow he and a photographer friend used while working on a piece for the “retouching section” of the publication Computer Arts, a sub-publication of Creative Bloq.

Here’s an example of this technique in action. On the left is the photo with the ‘look’ he’s going for, on the right the photo he’s working with.


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The brilliance of this video was perhaps best captured by Redditor Goombatron when they said the tutorial is “like teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one. But with curves instead of fish.”

It really is an incredibly useful technique that you’ll likely find yourself using again and again… whether you’re just trying something new or you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to replicate another style. And while it should never be your goal to base your work 100% off of someone else’s, it’s great to have that inspiration and direction when you’re dealing with some creative block.

Be sure to leave some love for Secret and his tutorial in the comments below, or drop your own tips in there if you’ve got something to add.

(via Reddit)

  • Frank Mckenna

    Another awesome tutorial on PetaPixel today. Thanks Guys!

  • ShellyBeans88

    I liked the first one better and think it looks more professional. Just my opinion :)

  • BDWT

    Wow, book marking this tutorial for sure! Thanks for sharing.

  • Adam Cross

    nice tutorial, but why try and recreate someone else’s look? come on, we can be more creative than that.

  • Gavin Owen

    “like teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one. But with curves instead of fish.” should be “like teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one. But with curves instead of rods.”

  • Jake

    I prefer Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower” to Bob Dylan’s.

  • Zos Xavius

    did you not watch the whole video to the end, where he suggests several examples as to why this technique would be useful? here’s one: consistent look and feel across a magazine spread. I could go on, but why bother?

  • Zos Xavius

    I learned several things today. More like this pretty please petapixel!

  • OtterMatt

    I’m beginning to realize just how many tricks there are in PS…
    But I’m still not going to sit still long enough for a class. Hence, these tutorials are awesome.

  • Simon Cordingley

    Very interesting. :) Thanks. Just one small thing though. It would be good to have the video available in higher resolution, just to make it easier to follow what’s going on.

  • olafs_osh

    This is a very good tutorial. And you’re missing the point here slightly – of course, you can try to copy this and that with this info, but the main gain in this tutorial is explaining things, thus giving you more professional freedom and saving your time. Also – many of us get jobs, where specific look or color range is required [being it with old photos we took, or client wishes] – so this tutorial becomes very handy indeed.

  • argghhh

    gotta exercise your color eye, folks, then you wouldnt need to do all that work and follow a complicated workflow just to to simply match color and tone…

  • Jigsaw

    A man after my own heart. :D

  • ISO640

    This could also be useful if you’re trying to match an expired film… that isn’t recreating someone else’s look but making digital look more film-like without having to purchase expensive presets.

  • Bob

    You miss the point! watch it in reverse & you will be impressed!

  • AliNoorani

    damn, every time I think I know a lot in Photoshop…

  • mostlyfiction

    You really need to listen to ‘Taj Mahal’s’ version . . .

  • Steven Solidarios

    Just take pictures of ladies with nice curves. Saves having to edit later.

  • agour

    by far the simplest, but most useful tutorial I’ve seen in age

  • Mark Trevino

    this isn’t a “tutorial” this is just someones experiment in trying to re-create another image. Please pick up the standards PetaPixel.

  • Mark Trevino

    you can get a free app that does a better job,and in much less time.

  • mitchino

    which one?

  • imajez

    A friend once commented that Dylan songs always sounded better done by someone else.

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    So now instead of encouraging creativity, we encourage more stealing? WOW!

  • Anonymoused

    Okay, but 480p? I understand this video was posted in 2012, but it still hardly seems reasonable for a tutorial to be in 480p.

  • David Peterson

    Seems the awesomeness of this totally went over your head….

    It is nothing to do with this specific picture.

    But is a more general method you can use with lots of other pairs of pictures, which you wish to match.

  • David Peterson

    It has many uses. Such as doing a shoot for a magazine, and making sure your pictures match the look of the existing look used by the magazine.

  • Mark Trevino

    it would seem so, because I see nothing awesome about it.

  • Mark Trevino

    there is CamWow,and CamWow Pro, Wood Camera,Koloid is pretty cool too, those are just a few for quick snaps if you don’t have your normal gear,or time to set up and compose a shot. Tinytype is also pretty cool.