Edit for tonal perfection
Three top tutorials for tweaking or completely replacing the colours in your scenes
In an ideal world, you’d capture all the right colours in-camera. In truth however, every image can benefit from a little editing in the digital darkroom, especially when it comes to boosting colours up. If you’re going to be printing your photos, it’s particularly important to make sure your laptop or computer screen is calibrated correctly before you get going, as every monitor varies slightly in terms of colour saturation and brightness.
Whether you’re using Lightroom, Photoshop or Camera RAW, most programmes have a similar set of tools. If you’re adjusting image tones in Photoshop though, use adjustment layers for each new edit, so that you don’t permanently alter your original file.
The first edit to make is tweaking white balance with the Temperature and Tint sliders until you’re happy with the cast across your image. You might want to look at Split Toning too, which will enable you to selectively introduce different hues to the highlights and shadows. To adjust the exposure and contrast, alter the Levels or Curves. For making generalised colour corrections to your image, add a Colour Balance adjustment layer.
Next up, one of the best ways to amp up colours is by dragging the Saturation or Vibrance sliders to the right. Be conservative at this stage, as too much Saturation will degrade the image and cause posterisation (when you’ll notice colour transitions appearing as bands rather than a smooth transition from one tone to another).
Saturation and Vibrance sliders can also be found in the Basic tab of Lightroom’s Develop panel, but what’s the difference between the two? Using clever Adobe wizardry, the Vibrance slider works on more muted tones. Ideal for portraits, it leaves skin tones and heavily saturated colours unaltered for a much more natural-looking result. On the other hand, the Saturation slider changes all hues more aggressively, affecting colours no matter how saturated they already are.
Once general adjustments have been made to an image, you might want to take things further and get more creative. It’s possible to mix, match and replace colours completely in Photoshop CC. The Color Replacement tool is tucked away underneath the traditional brush in Photoshop, and can be used to replace a single colour in a photo – discover how this works in the tutorial on the next page.