Use Color Contrast in Photoshop for More Depth and Richness in Portraits

There are so many different ways to process your photographs. Some people will spend hours on a single image, others will spend a few seconds, and the rest of us fall somewhere in between those ranges. For the most part I think we all strive to get as much as we can in-camera through the time we spend metering subjects, dialing in exposure settings, and controlling our lighting whenever possible. Post-processing is just another part of that creative process where we harness the capabilities of the image created in the negative and use our own preferential techniques to create the final image.

These processing techniques don't necessarily have to be very complicated or even time consuming.

In this video by Tony and Chelsea Northrup, Chelsea goes over a few different uses of the Selective Color adjustment layer in Photoshop. The methodology of using adjustment layers, in and of itself, is just awesome. I love how much more control you gain when using an adjustment layer verses a blanket image adjustment. Personally, I had never really thought to use the Selective Color adjustment layers in the way that she illustrates in this video. The processes are very simple, easy to use, and highly effective to make the most out of your image. Using color contrast to refine your emphasis on the subject is a brilliantly simple way to draw the eye to your subject that much quicker. Plus, as demonstrated in the video, it can also be very quickly used to add a unique personal style to your images. I, for one, will definitely be seeing how I can incorporate the use of the Selective Color adjustments in my own work. Give it a try, see how you like it.

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Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

The video is good. But I don't think that this can be called "Color Contrast" This is color grading or simply playing with selective color adj.

Color contrast, for me, is a method it can be done, normally, previous to color grading, for the purpose of building a solid base with personality that can connect all of the artist work and make it different and recognizable.

I normally start with a sat/vibrance adjustment. I normally take down the vibrance like halfway, depends on the photo. The color contrast is aggressive with saturation and I like to maintain everything under normal levels so my eyes don't get used to color aberrations. For this purpose, I always have a copy of the RAW processor edition in the bottom of the document and I compare the photo with the new adjustments I'm making with the bottom one. If when I switch images in the screen, the photo with the new adjustments seems to my brain like "out of bounds" in every sense, I know I went too far.

So the next step is to create a curves adj. First I decided if the phot have to go cold or warm. And you can set this with the red channel or the blue one. If you want cold take the slider in the red channel down or the one in the blue channel up. If you want warm, exactly the contrary. If you choose one or the other to set the cold/warm mood, is make a difference, so explore, play and stick with what you like more.
With the remaining two channels, make a contrast curve. and you have color contrast. Is not a definitive adjustment for me, is more like a previous step which creates a solid base with style and mood in which you can build your color grading.

Every photo ask for different adjustments, you have to analyze and move the curve in the correct place for the results you want... in the correct intensity... is part taste, part intuition, part feeling....
I normally like to exaggerate a little the effect and then take down the opacity, sometimes drastically. Some photos require like a 3 percent, others 40, like I said, it depends on what are you looking for.

This is great because you can build a style, a characteristic feeling, but it takes time an a lot of errors and weird periods. Don't give up! With time everything comes into place :)

Helpful information but the video delivery and production was tortuous to watch. Crisp delivery and editing would have been great and they make these wonderful almost invisible mics now that prelude the need for something larger than the one used to record a 1930s Glenn Miller radio performance. But that's all subjective and I left smarter than when I started, so I appreciate the information.