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Working With Color Harmonies

Being a full-time huge fan/buddy of the guys over at the RAWexchange store, I often get asked to check out their new material. (Just to clear the air, no one is paying me to say any of this. I just love them and everything they put out ... like, for real. I DO get a cut of the sales if you happen to purchase something through one of my links, but that is besides the point. The RAWexchange Store really does just have top notch stuff that I ACTUALLY use in basically every image ... ok moving on.) Well friends, let me tell you that their newest endeavor to start selling in-depth tutorials is one of their best ideas yet. Stefan Kohler created a "Colors & Photoshop" tutorial that is two and a half hours jam-packed with everything you could ever hope to know about colors and how/why they work the way they do in Photoshop. Don't be scared by the lengthy duration - it's super-handily broken up into a bunch of smaller videos; each is about a different subject or a certain tool. That way you can absorb the info a bit at a time (because it is a lot), and then you can always jump back to reference one subject and re-watch just that video when you're ready to give it a go.  Some of the subjects he covers in the tutorial include...

  • Gaining an understanding about what color is and how it works
  • Understanding the principles behind color work and learn to apply it to your own images
  • Learn what color harmonies and schemes are and how to apply them
  • Additive and substantive color editing using blending modes
  • Learn to use colors for complex masking (like selecting detailed lace)
  • How to ‘fix’ photos with 'bad' color
  • Techniques on color correcting and matching skin tones
  • How to use curves to fix color issues in ways you may never have considered

As a professional photographer/retoucher I've had to learn a TON about color correcting, matching skin tones, altering clothing to match actual materials and so on. I can't even begin to tell you how much I wish I had my hands on this tutorial like 6 or 7 years ago. Seriously, it would have saved me so much time and energy digging around the internet trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. Even as proficient as I am with color there were still many times I found myself watching the tutorial going "Oooohhhhh ... well that's awesome I'm totally going to have to start trying that!!!" For example, selecting things using color channels. I mean I knew it was a thing, and I've even (sort of) done it before a time or two, but it's the little tips and tricks Stefan provides about the technique that really made me realize just how powerful of a maneuver it is - and how much I'm not doing it. One of the other things I realized I wasn't really doing, well at least not consciously anyway, was working with color harmonies.

What are color harmonies, you ask? Well, basically they are different variations of color groupings that are scientifically destined to look better when smushed together .... In other words they are colors that, when viewed together in an image, are more pleasing to our eyes. (You're welcome, eyes.) Obviously all rules are made to be broken (especially when it comes to Photoshop); you can have the color palette of your images be whatever you'd like - it's art. BUT, if you plan out a shoot using a pre-decided color scheme, or even decide on one later and then edit the image to fit that scheme, it can really yield some beautiful results. I actually realized after watching the color tutorial and then checking out my own portfolio that I've been already been subconsciously making images using color harmonies. *makes sure no one is looking then pats self gingerly on back* Odds are that you're already doing this quite often as well, because these color schemes really do just look good when put together. 

In the Color & Photoshop tutorial you learn all about the different color wheels and why they are how they are, but you also get the run down on this great color scheme designer. Essentially what you can do is start by picking your base color. (Usually this will be your main focus of the image.) For example, if your subject is wearing a red dress you might want to make your base color red ... not to say you couldn't just pick a color scheme you particularly like that doesn't involve red and then turn the dress any color you'd like! Either way, once you have your base color you can select different types of schemes in the top left corner of the editor like complementary, triad, analogic and so on. These will put different points around the wheel and you can spin it as desired until you land on something you like. Then you sort of have a "color map" so you don't get lost when you're choosing/editing your colors. Anyway, from now on I'm definitely going to be using that tool and thinking more about color harmonies before I even push the shutter button!

I've only barely scratched the surface of all the information you can soak up from this tutorial, so if you have an interest in learning about color and improving your technique, definitely don't hesitate to snag this fantastic resource. I know I'll be referring back to it time and time again!  

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