Colour Grading Photos: Why we should take a leaf out of the video / film colourist's book

Sophie at the Life Guard Hut #2 Sophie at the Life Guard Hut #2

The current trend to give photos a cross process look (or colour treatment) is certainly a visually interesting effect. The effect, applied in post process, once needed a little bit of Photoshop foo (and originally a bit of darkroom magic) to achieve but the advent of apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram, has made the effect ubiquitous and in everyone's pocket.

In the hands of professional retouchers (in particular those working in fashion) these techniques are used to great effect creating stylised images that compliment the subject and message. In the hands of the many, however, these looks are generally applied without thought to how that treatment may effect the image, and when done purely for the sake of it, are becoming a little cliché. Hey,  I am even guilty myself in the image above. These colour treatments are not new, and colour has been used as a tool, intelligently, by colourists in TV and Film for years when grading film. Colourists use colour to add an additional dimension to the image and deliberately guide the viewer's eye or manipulate the mood of the images, to not only help realise the directors vision but help communicate the narrative of the story.

As I have a passion in anything related to capturing and representing images, I keep a keen eye on what is happening in the cinematography world and recently I stumbled upon a series of free Final Cut Pro X grading courses by Denver Riddle over at Color Grading Central. Denver is a working colourist and has shared some top tips (and some excellent Final Cut Pro X Presets, if that's your bag) on how to use and manipulate colour to our advantage.

Over the next few weeks I plan to release a series of articles, translating some of Denver's excellent ideas and cinematic devices into Photoshop, please find these linked below:

Colour Grading Photos: How you can use hue to affect the moodColour Grading Photos: The Effects of Saturation and Exposure on MoodColour Grading Photos: Simulating Time of Day