Synaesthesia: How Jaime Ibarra Color Grades His Images to Hear With Light

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With the brand new Fstoppers website, everyone can now upload a portfolio to a profile for the world to comment and rate your photos. After just a couple of days from launch Jaime Ibarra's photos exploded onto the front page, with a whole series of popular photos and with good reason. His photos are a beautiful combination of emotion, concept and color that you cant help but be stunned.

I caught up with Jaime to chat about his work and also to check out his workshops available on his website store, teaching you how to color grade and composite in his style.

Tell me a little bit about your photography background and how you have got to where you are today

I was a graphic designer for about 10 years before I bought my first camera back in 2005, so I already had a strong foundation in Photoshop, which is now a key component in the creation of my images. Looking back, I can say that it was never my intent to "be a photographer" I only wanted to create photos and images that existed in my mind. My path has always been that of an artist, rather than that of a photographer who provides a service to clients. For the most part, my work has always been a personal artistic outlet.

You say you hear colors (synaesthesia) what do you mean by this?

Synaesthesia is an uncommon neurological condition in which there is basically a "crossed wire" between two of the senses, one triggering the other in a normally unrelated manner. Some synaesthetes (people with synaesthesia) for example can smell numbers, some can taste sounds. I have a color/sound association, in which colors produce musical tones (this is the best way I can describe it). In a way, combinations of colors are like music, and the color palettes in my work must produce a pleasant sound. This is driving force behind the colors in my images.

You have a very unique style of retouching your images, how essential are composites in creating your unique style?

Compositing enables me to create an alternate world out of an otherwise boring studio shot, or at the very least, create a more compelling environmental aesthetic. While I do not always composite my images (given the time it takes to accomplish this), it continues to be a tremendous creative outlet for me.

You have a tutorial workshop based on your techniques, what would someone buying your tutorial learn from it?

I teach my post-production process in one of 2 ways: a live one-on-one session done in real-time over the internet (whilst sharing my screen), and I also have a video version of the same, which is available as downloadable content. Both are a comprehensive overview and walk-through of each and every step I take from the RAW photo, to the final image. The benefit of the live session is that it is also an open-forum, allowing you to ask specific questions, whether they pertain to post-production or just shooting in general.

If you had one piece of advice to share with learning photographers what would it be?

I constantly stand by my belief that your gear/equipment is not at all important. I own only one camera body, and one lens that I use when I shoot. I've even done shoots with my phone. A good photo starts in your is your vision that makes a good photo., not your equipment.

Where do you find inspiration for your shoots? 

I find inspiration everywhere, movies, music, perhaps something I saw when I went out for coffee, or a dream I had, or a story someone shared with me, the sources of inspiration are all around us, we just have to be receptive to them.

What is your shoot process?

On the technical side, there isn't much to say. I mainly use natural and/or available light. The less equipment around, the better. I am certainly not "gear-centric" when it comes to shooting. I feel that the presence of a lot photographic equipment only serves to dampen the human element of the shoot, which is my main interest.

Do you have a favorite shoot to date and why?

I could no more choose a "favorite shoot" than I could choose a favorite song, a favorite color, a favorite food, a favorite movie, etc each thing I enjoy has its own merits and reasons, and I celebrate each one for its uniquity. I have done numerous shoots that I look upon with equal fondness.

What are you working on at the moment, do you have any exciting projects or shoots coming up?

I am in the process of putting together 3 different books of my photography, and the professional musician side of me is trying to complete an ambitious CD project I have been working on for the past 10 years of my life.

Where do you hope your photography will progress to in the future, where would you like to be in 10 years?

To be honest, I am just enjoying this journey. I am in a very happy place with my art. I rather enjoy not knowing what is coming around the bend, or what the next turn has in store. I do not wish to interrupt an adventure with an itinerary.

Jaime's color tones and use of composites sets his work above and beyond, his imagination and vision is breathtaking, on his stunning website he offers various tutorial videos to learn his techniques in color grading, composites and also has textures to use in composite work. I watched his most popular video about color grading and it was fantastic.

I highly recommend it, he walks you through his process of taking a RAW photo through Photoshop to add color grades and lighting effects to create images in his style. the process is very simple and easy to follow, he walks you through editing two of his images from start to finish, resulting in a fantastic color blend and magic glow.

Tutorial Videos

Check out more of Jaime's work here:




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Lee Morris's picture

Huge fan!

Jaime Ibarra's picture

Straight from the man himself, even! Thank you :)

Patrick Shipstad's picture

Jaime is not only a ridiculous talent, he's a good guy, amazing musician and it's just a matter of time before his name blows up and his art will get the recognition it deserves! Thanks for sharing his work and congratulations on the new site.. it looks awesome!

I love your attention to detail, Jaime. Absolutely stunning images; brilliant in theory as well as execution. Keep it up!

His use of colors is beyond this realm. In other words, it's magic. He's a magician!

Jaime is awesome! Years ago, I was working late into the night struggling to get an image I was working on just right and saw his work on a forum. I messaged him and asked a quick question. I quickly got a reply just simply asking for my phone number. I sent it along and 5 minutes later Jaime was on the phone sincerely trying to help me with my image processing woes. I was floored! He's a really talented photographer, but an even better guy. Thanks again Jaime!

Meggan Trobaugh's picture

Love. Love. Love. He has great vision.

Jaime, you'e sort of like Kirsty Mitchell (except being a guy, of course) - you're so far beyond us mortals, that we don't even bother to compare our stuff to yours.
Your work is just amazing and makes me want to go "wow" every time I see one of your images.
I second Lee here - huge fan!

Gregory L'Esperance's picture

on another level of expertise for sure.

Brad Barton's picture

Great work.

Meanwhile, despise the hoops the website made me go through just to read the bloody article.

chris chua's picture

Been a fan of Jamie for some time now since I first discovered him on DeviantArt. Love his work and use of colors. Glad to see him here on FS! Also love this quote "A good photo starts in your is your vision that makes a good photo., not your equipment." Well said!

Great work. Inspiring.