A lesson in color grading

Apr 28, 2016

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

A lesson in color grading

Apr 28, 2016

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

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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:

Harry-BEFORE

and this:

Harry-AFTER

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!):

Original Martin Edit
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:

Joseph Edit
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!

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Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

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8 responses to “A lesson in color grading”

  1. 樂魔派相機精品館 Avatar
    樂魔派相機精品館

    ❤❤❤❤

  2. Margaritas Ante Porcos Avatar
    Margaritas Ante Porcos

    great job on making this tutorial, although original photo is way better than retouched one.

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      NP at all Margaritas! Glad to have helped share some techniques!

    2. Geoffrey German Avatar
      Geoffrey German

      Man, I thought the same exact thing. Way prefer the original, but it’s a good technique to know.

  3. Scott Tyack Avatar
    Scott Tyack

    It definitely seems to be the trend to make sure the subject looks like they have no blood flow. Maybe red ink became expensive?

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      More of a personal preference than following a trend per se, though undoubtedly being as young as I am, I am for certain impacted by modern cinema and posters / advertisements etc.

      As I gain more experience in photography and post work no doubt my tastes will advance also. We can only work to our current ability ;)

      I’ve only got 17 months behind me as a photographer so give me 5 years and we can check back in to see.

  4. John Avatar
    John

    Great technique Joseph, thanks for sharing.

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      NP John! Thanks for watching!