This is a continuation from part one, so be sure to read that first! In part one we covered pre-photoshoot planning, basic exposure adjustments, and the temperature adjustment panel!
4. Tone curve adjustments
Adjustments to the tone curve are very powerful. These adjustments can turn an average looking photograph into a professional looking one if done right. Tone curve adjustments can also help further enhance those dark/moody tones in your image.
The tone curve adjustment I always like to create, and the most popular one among other photographers, is the S-shaped tone curve.
The goal of this S-shaped tone curve is to increase the highlights while dropping the shadows. This adds more contrast and depth to your image.
After you have adjusted the tone curve to your liking, it’s time to dive into the color adjustments panel.
5. Color adjustments panel
The color adjustments panel is my favorite panel for color grading. This allows you to have greater control over each individual color. This allows you to add in whichever color grade you want.
When approaching the color adjustments panel it can seem a little overwhelming (I used to feel the same way). Here is how I now approach the color adjustments panel to help organize it in my mind. I hope this approach to this panel makes the color adjustments seem less daunting.
When deciding what color scheme I want to choose for my photo, I always first take into consideration the existing colors within my photograph. This allows me to take a high-level look at which photos I will need to tweak and adjust the most.
After this, I break down the color adjustments panel into two categories: The warm tones and the cool tones. From there, I enhance its natural, already existing tone to add further dark/moody tones. In my example, the tone that is already existing in my photograph without any major color adjustments, is a cool tone.
Once you identify the existing tone within your image, it is up to you to decide what color harmony you want within your photograph. This part is my favorite because you have the most creative freedom.
A website/tool I love to use to help me better craft the color harmony within my photo, as previously mentioned, is Adobe Color:
I love taking advantage of the color wheel that they provide.
You can then choose whether you want an analogous, monochromatic, complementary or any of the other color harmonies. When you are trying to follow the rules of color theory within your photograph, this color wheel will be your best friend so be sure to bookmark that webpage provided above.
For my example, I will be going with an analogous color harmony. Because of this, I will want the majority of the colors in my photo to be more on the bluish and greenish side.
From there, I break down the colors into their hue, saturation, and luminance.
The hue deals with the actual color tones in the image.
Since I want to add more blues and greens to the image, I will mostly be playing around with the cooler colors (green, blue, magenta, and purple). Because of this, I will be adjusting these colors to the more bluer side.
The saturation deals with how strong a color will appear.
Because of this, I will drop the saturation a bit on all of my warmer colors because I want to express more of those blues in the image (with exception of the green). I will preserve the saturation in the blues, only dropping them a tiny bit (personal preference).
The luminance deals with how bright a color will appear.
I will not make many edits to the luminance slider — only adjusting the reds and oranges to preserve her natural skin tone.
The luminance slider is perfect when you need to brighten up your subject’s skin tone because the luminance adjustments to the reds, oranges and yellows are often reflective of skin tone. This means if the skin tone of your subject is too dark and blends in with the rest of the background, try adjusting these colors to the right and you should see your subject’s skin tone come back to life.
After you have made your color adjustments, it’s time to dive into split toning.
6. Split toning
The split toning panel is a great panel to further enhance whatever color harmony you picked.
Since I chose the analogous color harmony of blue and green, I will be adding blue to my highlights and green to my shadows. This just ensures that I am consistent with my color grading and the color harmony I decided to use.
I like to add subtle adjustments to the split toning because if you make big adjustments here it could throw off all of the colors that you adjusted earlier:
Also take advantage of the balance slider. This slider allows you to choose which color you want to prioritize. I never like to leave it in the middle. I always prefer one color to be more dominant over the other color.
In this case for example, I want the bluish tone to be about 75% of the image while the green is about 25%, so I will slide the slider more toward the blue side in my highlights.
I love adding grain to my images. It can really add that final touch when you are going for those dark, moody tones.
When it comes to adding grain to an image, I believe people are split between two camps. One camp says that if you are going to add grain, then you need to ADD grain. In other words, if you are going to add it, add enough to make sure your audience really knows there is grain.
The other camp believes that you only want to add a little as to not ruin the sharpness and detail of the image.
For me personally, I am in the middle and some days I am more in one camp than the other. Most of the time, I try to add very subtle adjustments in all the panels, because I am a big believer that “less is more.”
With that being said, I tend to add very little grain, however, I like the size and roughness of my grain to be a lot.
This is a personal preference and play around with the grain until you are happy with the final product. I definitely believe you should play around with it by adding a lot just to see if you like it. If not, you can always drop it down.
Stay tuned for a video tutorial where I walk through all of my steps to produce a dark, moody image.