Color Photo Editing
This video demonstrates how Exposure enables you to make adjustments to color with precision and ease.
Photos: Craig MacPhee
Exposure’s editing tools enable you to adjust your colors at a very detailed level. I’ll demonstrate using this color portrait, and will focus on using Exposure’s Basic panel and Color panel to make my color adjustments.
If you’re using a preset, It’s best to do your color editing after you have applied it, since Exposure’s presets will change the values of the controls on the color panel. For this video, we’ll do our color toning on the image straight out of the camera.
When editing RAW photos that record white balance information, a good place to start is Exposure’s Temperature and Tint sliders in the Basic Panel.
Whenever possible, it’s best to edit using a RAW file because it contains the unprocessed sensor data from your camera. This enables you to make dramatic changes to the look of a photo without a loss in image quality.
The Temperature slider enables you to adjust for lighting conditions by specifying a precise temperature value in Kelvins. I’ll adjust the Temperature slider on my image to warm it up slightly. I’ll use Exposure’s shortcut keys for Temperature slider adjustments. The E key enables me to decrease the temperature, while the R key enables me to increase the temperature.
For RAW files, Exposure provides a number of temperature presets like Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, and more. These will adjust both the Temperature and Tint sliders.
The Tint slider enables you to adjust the green or magenta tint of your image. You probably won’t use the tint slider in your color toning, unless you need to correct a color problem, like having shot with the wrong white balance selected in your camera or having shot around fluorescent or neon lights that have lent a green or magenta tint to your image.
Exposure gives you another way to adjust white balance, which you can use instead of manually adjusting the Temperature and Tint sliders. The white balance color adjustment tool enables you to click on an area of your image to set your white balance. It’s best to choose neutral gray. Exposure will correct the temperature and tint for the entire image.
I’ll choose the eye of my subject because it’s the best neutral I can find in this image. If you have to choose a white area, it’s important to make sure it isn’t blown out. Shooting a gray card at every lighting change is a good way to make sure you have a neutral gray to refer to.
That warms up the image just a bit, by about 500 kelvin. Because I already dialed in the image temperature using the Temperature slider, I’m going to go with that value.
I’ll adjust the remaining Basic Panel sliders to taste. I’ll reduce the Exposure a bit. I’ll lower the Shadows slider to deepen the shadows just a bit. I’ll bump up the Vibrance just a bit to give the colors more impact. Now we’ll work in Exposure’s Color panel, which is where you’ll do the majority of your color editing.
You’ll typically do your color toning after you have adjusted the settings in Exposure’s Basic panel. Use the Color Filter tool if you want to simulate a color filter attached to your lens. You can adjust the Density, Color, and Cool/Warm sliders to taste.
The Cool/Warm slider covers most common situations. Unlike the Temperature slider in the Basic panel, which is used specifically for white balancing, the Cool/Warm slider is used more for creative looks. I’ll warm up my image just a bit.
To simulate a lens filter, use Exposure’s Density and Color sliders. Move the Density slider to the right to increase the strength of the filter. Once you’ve set the Density slider to a value above 0, you can adjust the Color slider to choose the filter color. Selecting Preserve Brightness prevents the filtering from darkening the image as a real color filter would.
Exposure’s color filter presets provide you with a good starting point, as well. There are nine different looks, which cover cooling, warming, and more. Exposure’s Detailed Adjustments section is where you adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance for each color.
The default view is HSL, but you can switch it to Color if you prefer to organize the sliders by color instead. Choosing Compact is handy if you want a more compact panel view, which can help if you’re working on a small monitor and want all the sliders visible, without having to do a lot of scrolling. I’ll use Exposure’s default HSL view.
The Hue category is where you shift the color. By adjusting the hue of Reds, note how I can shift it to either a magenta or an orange color. In this image, I like the bolder look on the red pallets when I shift the hue in the magenta direction. I get a similar result in the Blues when I bump the hue in the purple direction.
Hue enables you to achieve very subtle, gradual color shifts within each color. I’ll toggle the Color panel off and on to quickly see the difference my color edits have made.
Saturation boosts or reduces the intensity of the color. I’ll increase the blue saturation a bit. You can also adjust saturation across the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Increasing the saturation in the highlights enables me to bring more of the bold blue color back into the blue pallets behind the subject.
Luminance boosts or reduces the brightness of the color. I’ll boost the luminance in the blue and red colors to make the image pop. The color spectrum that’s shown under each slider gives you a handy visual preview of the adjustment, so even before you adjust the slider, you have a good idea of what the result will look like.
In HSL view, Exposure also includes targeted adjustments for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. This offers a handy way of simply clicking on the color area in your image that you want to adjust. Exposure identifies those colors, and adjusts them for your entire image depending on whether you move the mouse up or down.
I’ve selected her jacket. I’ll hold down the mouse button, then drag the mouse down to reduce the amount, and up to increase the amount. Notice that the hue for Exposure’s blue and cyan colors is adjusted as I do so.
After dragging and adjusting colors in the image to taste, press the Esc key or click outside the Preview area to return to normal editing. This is a great way to target in-between colors, to adjust the blend needed to obtain the color that you’re interested in. To reset a slider, just double-click on it. I’m resetting cyans and blues for this next demonstration.
In the Tone Curve panel, I can adjust the overall brightness, or the red, green, or blue brightness at specific areas of the tonal range of my image. In this image, I’d like to introduce a cyan cast in the shadows. I’ll select the Red channel, then lower the Shadows slider. Exposure’s color editing tools enable you to refine your colors at a very detailed level.