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My Colour Adjustment Workflow

I have received several questions and requests related to the way I get these rich colours on my images. If you are a regular visitor on my blog you might have noticed that I usually write something along the lines of “I did some adjustments in Lightroom and some finishing touches in Photoshop in LAB mode”. Here I try to demonstrate what I usually do. Not always, but often.

This post was originally written in german as a guest post for the “Fotoholiker” blog and this one is now the english version.

In this little video I show you my workflow within Lightroom and Photoshop. The actual workflow though starts naturally in camera. I always have an eye on the cameras histogram and try to get a decent exposure capturing all the shadow and highlight details, if possible of course. In my landscape photography I almost always use graduated neutral density (GND) filters which help me achieving that. If it’s possible I sometimes try to underexpose slightly to get some richer colours already in camera. Also I try to have in mind, that the camera’s meter might be fooled by too bright or too dark scenes, meaning it sometimes over- or underexposes depending on the lightness of the scene. A little exposure compensation helps in this case.

The colour adjustments in LAB mode is of course no secret. I ran into some tutorials a while ago on Brian Auer’s blog, where he provides a tutorial and a Photoshop action for that and I also did once one of the tutorials by David Nightingale of Chromasia. And just the other night I saw David Cross doing a little tutorial on this in Photoshop User TV ep.180 (I guess).

The LAB colour space is a fairly complex thing and I would be a bad, bad liar would I say I understand it. Truth to be told, I know that what I’m doing here, but not much more. I’m planning to learn more about this powerful colour space, but time is limited and I think it has to wait a little.

After my german video, I got a email asking why I do it this way since the adjustment doesn’t look so much different and whether or not I could have done it in Lightroom alone. I have to say that I tried to get the same adjustment in Lightroom and somehow didn’t manage to. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but at least I couldn’t. The effect isn’t that big in this example because that’s what I intended to do. It is of course possible to go way over the top with this method. Another benefit of adjusting the colours this way, is that by using the LAB colour space, the adjustments affect only the colour channels and not the Lightness channel. Something you can’t achieve otherwise.

I excuse myself already now for some “noises” that I do on this clip, I had a little flu behind me and wasn’t still totally fine.

Since it is not clearly visible in the clip you can see the before and after versions of the images here.

Before:

After:

If you have any questions, remarks or did find any crucial errors in here I encourage you to leave a comment.

I hope you like it and thanks for watching.

  1. Great description of color workflow. I try to implement it in my photos. Thanks.

  2. Thanks a lot Jose. I'm glad to hear that you liked my effort. Feel to share your result here once you have applied it. Would be nice to see.

  3. Interesting video! Do you think you could get a similar effect in Lightroom just by turning up the vibrance further?

    • Hi Andrew.

      I'm not entirely sure. I guess it's easy to reproduce a similar effect in Lightroom. After learning this technique I simply found it easier this way. That said, I haven't been processing my images that way now for a while as I found that working in Aperture is just fine for me at the moment. Also I have been processing quite many B&W images.

      This technique though can also be used to create some nicely toned B&Ws.

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