Whether you like shooting cities or nature scenes, deep colors and tones add a captivating mood to photos. I’ll walk you through how I include color, shadows, bluish darks and orange glows that are perfect for all kinds of shots, especially low-light photos taken on shorter fall days! You can get this tutorial as a preset called “Epic Canyon” along with 11 other of my presets from FilterGrade!
Start by opening an image of your choice. For this tutorial, I’ll be using a picture I took two summers ago while visiting the Grand Canyon.
Step 2: Tone Curve
To get a bluish, filmy base to our image, we’re going to go our RGB Curve. These might look complicated, but you’re basically making an “S” shape for the red, green, and blue channels, each slightly varied from the other. You can copy my curves or play with them on your own!
Notice how the right half of the curves are the same, and the bottom left halves are only different in how high or low they go: The red tail dips the lowest, the green next, and the blue dips the least. This basically lets the blue “show through” more to give the entire image a darker bluish film-look.
At this point, my image looks like this:
Step 3: Radial Filter
Now, I’m going to add a boost to the light that’s in the image. Here, it’s coming from the left side. I’m going to make a Radial Filter matching the light from the sun. I boost temperature, contrast, and saturation. I also pick an orange I think fits best with the sunset light.
Step 4: Basic Settings
Now I’m ready to calibrate my basic settings: Exposure, contrast, shadows, clarity, and vibrance all go up (moved to the right on the adjustment bar). Saturation, highlights, whites, and blacks all go down (or to the left). As a rule of thumb, I usually have highlights as low as they can go, and shadows as high as they can go in all my edits. This is where the contrast adjustments really make the light and colors pop.
At this point, the image looks much more defined:
Step 5: HSL Adjustments
From here on out, I’ll be making more minor adjustments to color, sharpness, tone, etc. The first four steps are really the “bread and butter” of the editing process here.
I’m going to adjust my colors, particularly the orange and blues. Notice I’ve actually turned all other colors “off” by giving them zero saturation, except for orange, yellow, and blue. I adjust the hues of the orange and yellow to look even more orange. I mute the blue and darken it in the luminance tab.
The image doesn’t look much different but there are subtle color changes:
Step 6: Sharpen and Noise
Sharpen to bring out the details where you want them and reduce noise to smooth the entire image out.
Step 7: Vignetting
Add a Vignette! This is probably the easiest way to add to the mood of the image without changing anything about it.
Notice the image looks moodier and the orange glow pops even more:
Step 8: Camera Calibration
I get picky with my colors and use this tool at the end to adjust the color scheme of the image as a whole. I usually move the red and green primary to the right, and blue primary hue to the left. This will deepen the orange and blues even more.
Step 9: RGB Tone Curve
The finishing touch will be to soften the blacks to create a “matte” look. Go back to the Tone Curve, this time working in the RGB channel, and just curve the lower left tip up so it doesn’t touch the corner. This makes even the darkest blacks a little softer to add to that moody film look.
And here’s your finished product!!
Thanks for tuning in, and I hope this tutorial helps. Remember that at every step, you can make your own stylistic adjustments to create the image YOU like! Check my photography and edits out on Instagram @mpthecomebackid and at www.mikepoggioliphoto.com!