It’s not just for portraits!
“Using the power of Gradient Maps, in this tutorial, we will color multiple lights from different directions. We will also learn how to utilize the “Blend If” feature to make the light more realistic.”
Find more of Unmesh Dinda’s content here.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.
The power of color offers you extraordinary creative capabilities and you’ve never had more control than today.
The possibilities seem limitless. Explore your options before you commit to a solution.
Why Achieving Neutrality In Your Images Is So Important
Make your color more believable, saturated, and three-dimensional.
4 Ways To Achieve Neutrality
How you achieve neutrality sets the foundation for future color moves.
6 Ways To Get Better Shadow & Highlight Detail
Increase separation in the darkest and lightest values.
5 Tools You Can Use To Make The Most Of Shadows & Highlights Without HDR
You can extend the dynamic range of your images without bracketing exposures.
How To Key Your Images Expressively – Go High, Medium, Or Low
Set the mood for your images with tonality.
How To Avoid Making Viewers Squint At Your Images To See Their Highlights
Preserving detail and setting brightness are important first steps.
Midtone Contrast – The Key To Lively Images – Plus 3 Ways To Get It | Coming Soon
3 Ways To Bring Life Into Your Images’ Shadows | Coming Soon
Deciding Where To Make Your Images Glow And How To Do It | Coming Soon
9 Ways To Tell If Your Images Are Overcooked
Avoid these common mistakes.
How To Evaluate Color Adjustment Tools
Identify the go-to, exotic, and redundant tools.
Make all of Photoshop’s color adjustment tools more precise.
It’s the most precise tool for adjusting luminosity and hue.
High Pass Contrast
Choose between planar contrast or edge sharpening.
Get Even More Out Of High Pass Contrast
Add Curves contrast to High Pass contrast.
Curves, Clarity, Dehaze, High Pass, Texture and Sharpening Compared
How do you choose between so many ways to control luminosity contrast?
Curing Dehaze Color Artifacts
Try this quick fix to eliminate Dehaze color artifacts.
Hue/Saturation & Vibrance & HSL Compared
They’re the most powerful tools for adjusting saturation.
White Balance, Photo Filter, Color Overlays, and Curves Compared
How do you choose between so many ways to control color temperature?
It makes very precise changes like no other tool.
Use LAB Color Mode To Increase Hue Contrast
Use LAB mode for greater hue separation.
Use the information in one channel to improve another.
Adobe Camera Raw Filter
Using ACR on layers lets you use Photoshop’s precise masking with it.
Color grading can give many images a similar look or individuals a unique one.
Make the color in your images more expressive with this easy split toning solution.
Add new color into specific ranges of luminosity.
Transfer color from one image to another.
Make big changes non-destructively by redefining color values.
Before You Mask Use The Tool’s Selectivity | Coming Soon
The results are faster and sometimes better.
What You Can Do With Raw That You Can’t With Photoshop Unless … | Coming Soon
Adjust Raw files and individual layers with the most robust color adjustment feature.
Can you effectively present a project or body of work that contains both black-and-white and color images? It rarely works, but in rare cases it can.
The problem is that color and black-and-white images appear to be from different times or even different worlds and sometimes both. They’re so different from one another that presenting them together breaks the continuity of the larger story being told (Even a collection of separate poems creates a larger story, albeit with a much looser narrative and context than an essay.) and it undermines the suspension of disbelief required to imagine that a small two-dimensional image accurately represents our much larger three-dimensional world. Viewers end up paying more attention to the way the images are presented and our attention is deflected away from their content. We spend time and effort trying to figure out a pattern between images that are color and images that are black-and-white and the reasons why they’re different from one another, which is wasted if there aren’t any. “It looks better.” isn’t a strong enough reason to break continuity and suspension of disbelief. If there is no reason that contributes to the content of the series, then it’s a few small wins for individuals but a big loss for the team, and we leave the work feeling confused and frustrated. (“I don’t get. Is it me?”) For these reasons it’s best not to mix color and black-and-white images. Instead, present them separately.
You can learn a lot just by looking at great photographs.
Want to learn more about black and white images?
Start by studying these five photographers.
Alfred Stieglitz explored the softer sensibility of platinum with muted blacks, very full highlights, and a surprising range of tints.
View 12 Great Photographs By Alfred Stieglitz here.
Ansel Adams epitomized the modern sensibility with deep blacks, bright whites, and a full smooth range of tones in between.
View 12 Great Photographs By Ansel Adams here.
Brett Weston moved modern photography towards abstraction with extreme contrast often eliminating shadow and sometimes highlight detail.
View 12 Great Photographs By Brett Weston here.
Huntington Witherill advances the classic modern sensibility into the contemporary by achieving extreme separation in even the deepest blacks and the brightest whites, often side-by-side.
View 12 Great Photographs By Huntington Witherill here.
Joyce Tenneson has explored many high key black and white palettes over her career – neutral in her early years, semi-neutral tints mid-career, and more recently gold-leafed.
View 12 Great Photographs By Joyce Tenneson here.
View more 12 Great Photographs Collections here.
One of the most distinctive features of a visual artist’s use of color is their use of saturation.
Many photographers are often asked, “Are you a black and white or color photographer?” (Curiously other visual artists are rarely asked this question.) While many people who ask it don’t mean it to be, it’s a loaded question. There’s often a latent assumption that you can’t do both well. In fact, working with one can strengthen work with another. Moreover, the question suggests that black and white (and shades of gray) are not colors, when in fact they are very specific colors – neutral colors. And, the question does not address with any specificity how a photographer uses more saturated color. Curiously, this question is rarely asked of painters and filmmakers. A more useful question might be, “How saturated is your palette?”
There are essentially six distinct levels of saturation – neutral, semi-neutral, reduced saturation, fully saturated, highly saturated, and super-saturated.
Neutral colors are characterized by a lack of saturation. Neutral lie along the luminosity spine that unites all hues. (Equal parts of complementary colors mix to create neutral colors.) At any one luminosity value there is only one truly neutral color. Using neutrals is comparatively simple, as two other variables (hue and saturation) in color are reduced to the same values (zero); it’s an economy of means. To appear luminous neutral images typically employ significant contrast in luminosity to compensate for its lack of hue and saturation. With a few exceptions, neutral images generally present a radical transformation of the way we see. Many people associate it with dream states, whether they dream in black and white or not. It is often thought of as elegant, if not conservative and restrained. The luminosity component of color aids in judging levels of illumination, spatial relationships, and volume. Formal qualities and qualities of illumination become a particularly significant concern in neutral images. Neutral images are often associated with antiquity or of timelessness.
Semi-neutral colors contain trace amounts of saturation. Values cluster around the luminosity spine within a small radius. Semi-neutrals do not include truly neutral colors. Semi-neutrals function very similarly to neutrals with additional complexity. Spatial relationships may be subtly accentuated by the slight addition of hue. Iridescent and lustrous color effects can also be achieved.
Images with reduced saturation use low levels of saturation. Values cluster around the luminosity spine within a larger radius but do not achieve full naturalistic saturation. Though not fully presented, the hue of elements within a composition becomes apparent. Similarly the ambient color temperature can be suggested. Spatial relationships can be more clearly delineated through hue. Hue becomes a significant concern in compositions, though it may or may not be a primary concern, depending on how it’s deliberate reduction is handled. Images with reduced saturation often do not appear realistic. They appear somewhat restrained, limnal, neither here nor there, but somewhere in between. Many people associate reduced saturation with the past, particularly the recent past.
Fully saturated images are the most representational images. Color can be used to make elements in a composition seem similar or different depending on the degree of contrast of one or more of its elements – hue, saturation, or brightness. All three elements of color can be used to describe qualities of form, space, and light. Often, to preserve a realistic appearance, luminosity contrast is lower than in neutral and semi-neutral palettes. Fully saturated palettes are relatively energetic. They have decidedly contemporary connotations.
Highly saturated images use a generous amount of saturation, without becoming unrealistically saturated. Hue becomes a dominant preoccupation. It may vie for becoming the primary focus of attention with subject, spatial relationships, or qualities of light. Highly saturated images are energetic. They have contemporary, generally expressive, and sometimes youthful connotations.
Super-saturated images use extreme levels of saturation. Realistic representation is generally not a concern. Colors often appear unrealistic. Additionally, there is a tendency for colors to posterize, with abrupt transitions between different hues. Hue becomes the dominant concern, over subject or spatial relationships. Super-saturated images tend towards flatness. They are highly energetic, expressive, and sometimes associated with altered states of consciousness.
You can use the Color Sampler Tool in Photoshop in combination with the Apple color picker to graph color and identify the level of saturation of one or more images, either yours or someone else’s. See (list url for graphing color article) to find out how.
To lend unity to images within a single body of work it can be helpful, and in some cases necessary, to limit your use of saturation. Many artists will use just one level of saturation. While it is extremely difficult to present a wide array of saturation levels within a single body of work (though not a single image), for instance both neutral and saturated images, it is possible to present images that employ more than one level of saturation if they are closely related, such as reduced saturation and fully saturated or fully saturated and highly saturated palettes. As variety in saturation level rises it becomes more difficult to have separate images be seen as related.
When you think of Ansel Adams’ photographs you think of neutral images rather than highly saturated ones. When you think of Matisse’s paintings you think of supersaturated images rather than neutral ones. Think of your use of saturation as an essential component to defining your own signature style.
Artist’s often use consistent palettes for separate bodies of work, some use a consistent palette for a lifetime. This not only makes their work more readily identifiable, it also clarifies the nature of the statements they make. When an artist does this color becomes more than attractive, it becomes a message.
Joyce Tenneson has done this masterfully. Her typically airy palette both light and desaturated give her nude or near nude portraits a distinctive look. The delicacy of her palette not only makes a statement about the more sensitive nature of her subjects but also reveals her own sensitive approach and relationships with her subjects. Her high key palette suggests a concern with spirituality, perhaps more strongly than her occasional inclusions of painted light.
Tenneson often portrays figures in ways that defy conventional representations of the body, selecting alternate body types or ages, posing them in uncharacteristic ways that create expressively complex distortions, and including unusual props.
In Kristin Hands In The Air, the woman’s lack of hair gives this image an edgy undercurrent. Viewers would not be wrong to guess that the woman is struggling with illness. As with so many of Tenneson’s portraits, this image strips away the daily concerns of persona and fashion to show a deeper character in her subjects, tenderly but unflinchingly revealing both their fragility and an uncommon strength in these fleeting moments of grace made more durable by the act of photographing them.
(There’s a lot to be learned from looking at originals, which is why we look at masterworks from my collection in all of my digital printing workshops.)