Understanding Colors and Tones Videos

Hey @David_Kingham I had some questions after watching the Understanding Colors and Tones videos. First of all, this may be the most impactful set of video’s I’ve watched. I have messed around with processing for about 6 months now and I learned more in this two hours than any time spent on YouTube etc. So here we go…

  1. Do you consider these adjustments to be just the beginning of your editing process or is this often all that you do? If you use Photoshop regularly, do you open the file as a smart object to have access back to that raw data or just open as a file?

  2. I have been learning a lot about luminosity masks by watching videos from Sean Bagshaw. Do you see this as a replacement for luminosity masks or do you still use them, if so, how?

  3. Do you find that the Adobe Camera Raw Filter (not actual Camera Raw) in Photoshop is similarly effective? Obviously you want things to be right in Lightroom because you still have the raw data, but if you go to PS and need to make an adjustment, does this seem to work well?

  4. Do you find that this way of editing changes the way you shoot in the field? Do you still expose to the right? What about high dynamic range scenes, do you bracket? Do you blend?

Your answers will probably lead to more questions, and the more I think about/watch these the more questions I will have! Really though, this is the best money I have spent on a tutorial! The amount of data that becomes available is mind blowing.

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I’m glad you have found it so useful David! I went down the same path of learning from others on youtube, etc., and nothing ever resonated with me deeply, so it’s cool to be inspiring others with a new way of looking at processing.

  1. I always end up in Photoshop, so this is just the beginning, but most of the time this method gets me 95% of the way there now. It’s only some specific images that really need a lot of work, like exposure blending that I need to do a lot of Ps work now. Most of the time I will only do some cleanup in Photoshop like removing distracting elements. I rarely open as a smart object because at that point I know I’m pretty happy with the raw file, but this comes with experience, so it may be good practice to do this until you are comfortable. I’m also very destructive once I get into Ps, I flatten regularly and only keep my layers if I’m not sure if I’m done with it yet, but once I call it done I flatten away. Just another way to keep my process fast and simple. Definitely not your typical advice, but I tend to do everything a bit weird :wink:
  2. For me, using local adjustments in Lightroom with the range masks has largely eliminated my need to use luminosity masks in Ps. I love that I am still working with the raw data so I have more flexibility in that regard. I still use luminosity masks though, usually to do some localized burning and dodging if I need very controlled refinement. The range masks are a great tool, but still not quite as powerful as a good luminosity mask.
  3. Yes, the camera raw filter in Ps works fairly well for minor adjustments. Since you’re not working with the raw file I wouldn’t make big adjustments that require you to recover the shadows or highlights, you want to ensure the raw file is in a really good state before you go to Ps. But, there are some amazing tools in Ps that Lr doesn’t have, like the selective color adjustment layer, this and other things give you incredible control of your image.
  4. I generally try to expose to the right a little bit, but I’m not obsessive about it. As long as my histogram is somewhere in the middle I’m pretty happy. I just try not to block up the shadows too much since that’s where the noise will come from. I will ‘bracket’ for really high dynamic range scenes, but I’m finding that I don’t need those extra exposures very often anymore because I’m getting so much more out of the files. I usually just take the best exposure that is not clipping, bring the blacks all the way up and the whites all the way down, bring down the exposure, and then start working it with my tone curve and local adjustments to bring everything into range. Also, I don’t use the camera’s bracketing, I just take one middle exposure, adjust my exposure compensation while watching the histogram to get the shadows in range, and do the opposite for the highlights, So I usually only have three exposures which simplifies the processing.

My biggest advice overall is to just keep playing, make mistakes to see what happens, and learn from them. Also, Igor’s advice on NPN is solid. Don’t get too caught up in post-processing, it doesn’t have to be as complex as some professionals make it out to be. My process has become super simple and I’m having more fun and creating better work because I’m not obsessing over small details anymore. I’ve been down the rabbit hole of learning everything about Photoshop, I’ve even tried multitudes of different software trying to make the sharpest image imaginable. Yet in the end, I came back to Lightroom and prefer simplicity now.

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Thanks for sharing this, I will look it over closely next time I’m at my computer.

It’s much harder to find resources related to composition and creativity if you have any suggestions there I would appreciate it. I always hear people say study the greats, the problem is without a framework by which to study them I end up just looking at the image. Certain things may look good to me but clearly there is more to it. It’s also hard when one post critiques the editing the next critiques the composition and in the same post the composition was referred to as “dynamic” and others call it static. As someone new to all of this it can be hard to tel which direction to head.

I’ve also found it to be very hard to find good information on composition and creativity. Besides the books already mentioned on NPN, I recently came across this one which looks very in-depth (potentially too far!) https://amzn.to/3hCXhtZ

I have more luck studying landscape painters rather than photographers. Painters overall have a much better grasp on these concepts because they are actually creating from scratch and these are the fundamentals rather than after thoughts as is often the case in photography. There’s tons of good information on youtube if you start looking at painting composition, how to create depth, etc.

I think the best way to decide if you should listen to someones critique is by looking at their portfolio, if what they photograph inspires you then you may want to heed their advice, if not then leave it. Composition can be very subjective too, I may find something interesting and dynamic while someone else finds it boring. This is because there are no rules in reality and what you like will vary to what someone else likes because of life experiences, education, exposure to different cultures, etc.

I actually have that book, need to go back and look it over! That is good advice regarding critiques, finding that group that I can follow closely is important.

Thanks for all your help!

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