Adobe Photoshop is a visual cacophony of tools, tools, and more tools. There is seldom just one way to accomplish the look you are after, and beginners endlessly scour YouTube seeking the end-all answers to their questions only to find 27 different ways to, say, "add contrast." It can all be a bit confusing until you remember one key thing: There is no right and wrong. If you get the result you like, and those viewing your work seem to like it, then you've succeeded. To that end, I wanted to review one (of the dozens of possible) ways I utilize Gradient Maps for my color work in Photoshop.
Let's be clear though, I use Capture One Pro for most all of my color correction and what I call my "pre-color work." That is, I play with my images in Capture One until I feel the color is as close to my final vision as possible without going to Photoshop yet. I know certain looks I can easily achieve in Capture One, but other approaches I like to do require Photoshop. Depending on the project, the vision, and the images themselves, my color work approach can vary quite a bit. That said, lately I have been really embracing Gradient Maps in Photoshop because of the richness in both color and contrast that they can add.
As I stated above, you can achieve the same look (or darn close) with other approaches or combination of approaches. However, the results I get with Gradient Maps and Blending Modes in recent months are a "phase" I'm likely to be staying in for some time. I love it so much, I wanted to discuss it a bit and show what I have been doing with Gradient Maps in Photoshop, so I recorded the video tutorial seen above. It runs a little long, so I apologize for that, but you may be able to tell how giddy I am about my Gradient Map noodling this year.
Some of my work from this year where Gradient Maps and Blending Modes were used for the final color work and palette enhancement: