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Deciding factors when Color grading in LR

New Here ,
Apr 29, 2021 Apr 29, 2021

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Hi everyone, been into photography & LR for a couple of years. I'm loving this hobby and feel I've progressed in many ways, but I find color grading really, really hard  and will much appreciate any feedback I can get on the process itself, especially deciding factors while color grading. Sorry for lenght of post, not sure how to properly explain my challenges without being detailed.

 

I've bought courses and spent so many hours on youtube videos and reading various posts. I understand all the basics and I am well familiar with color theory. My practical issues are eye-balling and figure out which color tweaks this particular photo needs and that I am partially color blind. Partially, as in sometimes certain colors can be a bit hard to differ, and then there's the insecurity of knowing a color grading I think looks great, and which looks a certain way to my eyes, might look slightly different to others (or not good at all).

 

Let me take a practical example and try to explain my issues & thought process:

I'm sitting down with a photo taken on a bridge with clear leading line towards an orange sky/sunset, do my basic edits and then it's time to figure out where to go with colors. I have a lot of blues in the photo and there's a lot of warm orange from the sunset, so a blue/orange complementary split seems natural:

  • Dominant color: One of them should be the dominant color, but what are the things I should consider when picking the dominant color?
  • Color HUEs & creating harmony: Then there's finding the exact HUE of my blues & oranges that go well together. If I had more experience I could probably eyeball it but right now I constantly feel uncertain. I may check the HUE of my colors using LR picker, or I can export & upload to color.adobe.com and check color wheel values (and i.e. do the same with a reference photo grading I like), but this doesn't take relative color and the context into consideration (which colors they combine with, or what the color actually looks like in combination with other colors). So I feel eyeballing and picking what looks good is the only real option, but there must be some "rule of thumb" to when I've reached color harmony & how to get there. Or what are the deciding factors to consider when deciding if I i.e. should shift my oranges towards red or yellow
  • Color contrast: I realize there ideally should be a clear separation between colors, but again - what are the deciding factors to figure out when I have a good color contrast/separation, or are there general tips to get good color contrast? Both between different colors and warm/cool tones  
  • Luminance: So I want to go for a moody, dark look and I've shifted my blues to where I think they look good, then I'm sitting here for the next hour shifting my oranges and yellow luminance up and down for 100+ times, trying to decide. Again, what are the things I should take into consideration when deciding? Something feels off but I can't figure out what
  • Spiking a feeling in the viewer with color: So we know warm colors may evoke feelings like happiness & energy, cool colors may evoke feelings like calmness or sadness. Then again I'm wondering what the deciding factors are when there's more than one color

 

Etc etc etc. Sometimes I nail a color grading and I get results I am pleased with, but most of the time the whole process is really draining, consists of a lot of confusion and I give up editing an otherwise good photo cause I can't nail a color grading I am happy with. 

 

I somehow need to learn the best order of doing my grading and the basic deciding factors during the grading process. Deciding factors both from the beginning, when I sit down and figure out where I want to take my grading, and during the grading process (what to be aware of, how one change impacts another, etc).

 

All input will be much appreciated. Tips based on what I explain, posts, valuable youtube videos on the subject - anything. I am so fed up and wasting so much time being stuck in color grading it's getting quite demotivating. In advance, thank you

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 29, 2021 Apr 29, 2021

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Hi PaalbNO,

 

OK, question for you: what is art?

 

Let me back up here and point out that the intent of these forums is to help people use LRC, not teach the art and color science of photography. You are asking EXCELLENT questions on how to make a good photo a stunning photo and I belive that that is beyond the scope of what the folks who help folks here are wanting to do. I'm not saying that no one might take a stab at helping you but this is not really the best place for that.

 

I strongly suggest you seek out a local photography club in your area. I belive the best way for you to get your answers is to look at other photographer's work and interact with them and see what they did and why. I'd also suggest going to art museums and see what and how painters resolved the same issues you are persuing. Really. Since a painter has complete control on everything in the painting, they did exactly what was necessary to get the look they wanted: colors, shading, emphasis, etc. The masters were master not only becuase they were able to make a face look like a face.

 

Perhaps my original question might make more sense at this point: what makes art art? This comes from within you and as you push your craft, you will know what to do to create the look you want (and how). And oh how I wish it was something that could be explained in a few short sentences but it can't and that's why there are masters, and other people. But you are aware of the issues so you have a major leg up on those who do not recognize that level.

 

And for the photo you are working on, you do have one really really big advantage with LRC: you can make Virtual Copies: take advantage of that and experiment. Try it focusing on the blues and then make a copy that focuses on the yellows. Does one speak to you more than the other? if so, why? Which one tells the better story. After all, in all art, if the painting or photograph or statue tells a story and speaks to you, well, that's art.

 

Good luck!

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Contributor ,
May 19, 2021 May 19, 2021

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Hi PaalbNO,

You're pulling my heart-strings in every way!!  Learning more about colour and how to manage it in the digital world (in-camera/compostion/ and then using Lightroom or other program/applications) is a passionate study for me!   It started a few years ago, and similar to the experience you describe, I too, needed to know everything to get the best results.  Also, I had a very difficult time, in the beginning, finding the right teaching, and answers to at least 1,000 questions!

But I did persevere and did find everything and more.  You will, too!  I will try to help, but as pointed out in gary_sc's post, this is not the scope for this forum.

 

Hope this next bit is okay within the community guidelines, but it is always recommended that you colour-calibrate your monitor.  Maybe you already have? When doing that, the companies that produce the devices and device-software (eg X-Rite) provide a lot of amazing resources through their site.

Because I came from an 'old-school' CMYK background, learning everything about colour models, esp RGB and the differences, was vital!  As I continued following the bread-crumbs and acquiring resources/information from a variety of Masters things really came together!  

Some clubs and memberships really paid off!  Discussing, comparing, conversing, studying, and so on, ... .  Studying Kent DuFault's - 2 volumes on Rich and Vibrant Color Photography was most incredibly enriching for what I needed.  Last year's Photoshop Virtual Summit was really exciting, for me, particulary regarding colour and colour-management/application(s). The contributors' contents and resources proved invaluable and helped to cap-off everything that I needed to complete the study!

Now, when out with my camera, I see so much more than before this intense study of colour in the digital world!   It is quite exciting, to me!!   Can't look back now!

I hope this provides a bit of encouragement and resource ideas!  

All the best to you!!

 

gary_sc provides great advice in his post - I enjoyed reading his classy and supportive reply, to you!

 

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 19, 2021 May 19, 2021

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Why thank you PaalbNO, you are very kind and your added comments are excellent. I agree with everything you added.

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