Color toning and color correction

Let me first say color toning (CT) and color correction (CC) are two different things. CC is used as the name say, to correct different color schemes, thus giving the whole photoshoot the same look.

Lets say you had a fashion editorial planned in two different locations, one outside at sunset and one indoor in the afternoon. Even if you shot with right white balance those two locations will not look the same in photos, skin tones will be different. Sunset will make them redder, because color will get a warmer type of quality, while the afternoon shoot indoors will have colder feeling. So your job when it comes to CC is to try to balance those two locations as best as you can and to get the feeling of cohesion through the whole editorial.

Color toning on the other hand is the most artistic side after photographing; in CT you give your images a mood, a tone. You can go towards more saturated images with orange vibrancy to them, bronze skin tones and such. Or you can go towards blue or green palette, colder, dark sort of vibe. Depending on a photographer and editorial this process is always different and very subjective. Lets say I like green tint, that doesn’t mean my client will. Or vise versa. 


(this example is not the most drastic difference possible but it does show variety)


Programs and color toning

Two most prominent programs are PS and LR. Both have different tools for color toning and here I will just show you two basic approaches in each program.



In Photoshop you would go to new adjustment layers and add either curves or levels. RGB curve is for adjusting shadows, midtones and highlights. But if you chose green, red or blue instead you can adjust the amount of that color in each light range. Lets say you would choose green and drag the curve up in the middle. You would give a whole picture a green tint. Opposite if you would drag it down only in upper corner, then you would clip that color from highlights. 

Levels work mostly the same with less finesse if you ask me. So stick to curves.



In LR on the other hand you also have curves but the better way could be for some slides to adjust hue, luminosity and saturation. Hue adjusts variation of color, saturation adjusts vibrancy of color and luminosity its brightness. So you can really tweak every color as much as you like. 




Black&white color toning

Yes, even B&W photos with no color look vastly different depending on color toning prior to processing to black and white. Lower example look darker and contrasty but it is not because I lowered the brightness. It is simply because some color tones produce darker B&W images. If you don’t believe me, you can try processing one with white balance of 3000K and then one with 7000K. So when you process it to black and white, try playing around. If you slide the luminosity slider of orange up you will get brighter skin tone and so on. You can do a lot.


(this example is not the most drastic difference possible but it does show variety)

So to sum it up, there are many great technical photographers and if you are a client hiring them just on the grounds of their knowledge then you would have a hard choice. What it mostly always come down then is their colors, the mood they portray in each photoshoot they do. You need color toning to marvel and amazing skin tones and gorgeous blues in shadows. Those little things give mood, interest and personal touch.

And in the end this is the most important thing to do, find your voice, your post process and stick to it so much that people  will start recognizing it as yours.