If Shakespeare were a photographer today, he’d have lost so many jobs to his “To tone or not to tone” predicament that in comparison you’d probably be able to catch more snowflakes in your mouth during a 20 second freak blizzard than he would have landed paid work.
Today I’m here with a video for you on that age old subject of “Colour Toning” and with a method I think most of you may find not only easy, but incredibly powerful. No, it doesn’t use curves, or levels, though it does include a lot of awesome.
Let’s crack on!
When it comes to toning, it can mean the difference between this:
Here is a side by side comparison for this:
Toning is a vast, endless landscape of mind bending mess, and with tools like Photoshop offering us 100’s of ways to skin a cat, we can often find ourselves lost in the sea of knowledge.
After watching the video above I had someone contact me asking for some advice, and it had become clear to me that while I’d shown HOW to tone, perhaps I wasn’t as clear with WHY you should tone an image a certain way.
Firstly it’s always, and I truly mean ALWAYS going to come down to personal preference OR the target audience / clients wish, depending no who you work for and where you plan on putting your images etc.
If we work from the basis of being able to focus on ourselves and develop our own style the next focus should be the idea of emotion. What are you trying to convey in your picture? What does the scene portray? Does your toning match the image style?
An example of this was a viewer of the video whom asked for some advice, he sent over 2 pictures, the original and his toned version. I know that the bokeh here is pretty distracting, but these help to illustrate my point on colour nonetheless. (Courtesy of Martin Martin, thanks buddy!):
It was clear to me that there was a case of “using something new you’ve learned” here rather than “using what works for the image”. Of course this is subjective and down to taste, though for the sake of argument and simplicity here let’s retain the notion that I think this image would be far better suited to a light and airy edit most likely featured in a fashion style audience.
So I responded to him with that exact goal in mind, to explain in hopes of passing on the mindset of toning an image for the scene and emotional response rather than just using techniques you’ve seen and copying the numbers.
Here was my take:
Of course it’s purely subjective, though if we’re going off the basis of a sunny day, beautiful girl in a cool dress etc it just made no sense for me as a viewer to feel heavy, sad, “blue”. I felt like it was a warm scene where I wanted to grab a cold drink and go join her 😉
Martin’s response was really satisfying to hear as he loved it and it was clear we’d shared a similar train of thought here.
So to wrap this up, I just wanted to say to you all to think carefully about the scene, about the emotion and what you want people to see. Use the techniques I’m sharing above as a tool to find the right colour voice for your projects and not as a “go to” that will “make every image look cinematic”. It just won’t work.
Hope it helps guys!