Play with colour bias to find the per­fect mix of tones for your pho­to­graphic sig­na­ture

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

Colour bal­ance is an­other area of photo edit­ing that is of­ten gov­erned by a sub­jec­tive def­i­ni­tion of cor­rect­ness. While a truly colour­cor­rected im­age will be de­void of a warm or cool bias, with neu­tral tonal­ity in each of the shad­ows, mid­tones and high­lights, this will not guar­an­tee a suc­cess­ful file. As is the case when work­ing with ex­po­sure, a photo can only be con­sid­ered cor­rect if it ful­fils its in­tended func­tion. Once bright­ness has been de­cided on, colour ad­just­ment will likely be the next stage in de­vis­ing a novel pro­cess­ing work­flow. Global colour will of­ten not be the fo­cus of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion dur­ing this process, as the ef­fect of al­ter­ing the over­all colour cast may be too strong for re­fined ma­nip­u­la­tion. How­ever, de­cid­ing on the ap­pro­pri­ate colour theme for your shot will lay the foun­da­tions for the fi­nal style. From this, it is pos­si­ble to pre­dict how more tar­geted al­ter­ations will im­pact on the mood of the shot. Lo­cal colour changes will in­tro­duce some con­trast of hues within the frame, adding depth through spa­tial sep­a­ra­tion. This can be achieved by us­ing Pho­to­shop brushes or the Ad­just­ment Brush in Light­room, to paint ad­di­tional colour over iso­lated zones. This af­fords the pho­tog­ra­pher to­tal con­trol over where in the frame dif­fer­ent colour ap­pears, pro­vid­ing the free­dom to style each shot ap­pro­pri­ately. Al­ter­na­tively, Split Ton­ing – adding dif­fer­en­tial colour to high­lights and shad­ows – cre­ates a chro­matic jux­ta­po­si­tion based on bright­ness. While clas­sic Split Ton­ing, com­monly in­volv­ing the ad­di­tion of blue tones to shad­ows, is a long-es­tab­lished tech­nique, there is an al­most un­lim­ited scope for tri­alling new com­bi­na­tions of colours. Of­ten this can pro­duce us­able re­sults, al­though it can some­times be help­ful to have a par­tic­u­lar in­flu­ence in mind. For ex­am­ple, cinema is a sig­nif­i­cant ref­er­ence for cur­rent and evolv­ing pro­cess­ing styles. By study­ing how con­trast­ing and com­ple­men­tary colours are used to­gether in poster im­ages and on-screen, a pho­tog­ra­pher can learn to adapt var­i­ous mixes to a range of sub­jects.

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