How to: Cinematic Colour Grading in Photoshop

My fetish in portraiture would have to be cinematic images. If a portrait looks as if it could be a still from a film with good cinematography the chances are I will be a fan. Recently two photographers I know were discussing one of their images. The car photographer of the two of them had applied colour grading to the image and the landscape photographer wasn’t familiar with what that meant.

Colour grading is a technique that has been used in still and moving imagery almost since its conception. It is most famously associated with films in the modern day. A very popular TV show that uses colour grading and colour casts in the extreme is Breaking Bad. Any fan of the show could be presented with a still of the series with no characters or obvious locations in it and will probably have and inkling that it’s Breaking Bad – perhaps without knowing why. Another way of describing colour grading would be the look of a show.

This tutorial is one of my favourites for explaining exactly what is happening and how to achieve it. I have plugged these guys every few months for nearly 2 years but if you aren’t familiar with them, please check out Phlearn for a plethora of tutorials.

A Photoshoot in the Austrian Alps

I thought shooting in a marsh early in the morning on a very cold and damp winter’s morning was testing. I have been unambiguously corrected on the belief by photographer David Trood who recently embarked on a photoshoot in the Austrian Alps for Getty Images.

Outdoor photography can produce very strong and interesting images but the risk versus reward factor is what would put a lot of photographers off this more extreme example. The element of the shoot that would make most photographers’ toes curl is not the risk; it’s not even the adverse weather conditions. It’s — as is often the case — keeping your gear safe. Even if you’re careful enough not to have lenses and lights tumble off in to the distance in a desperate bid for freedom down the nearest steep drop, there’s the worry of keeping it all dry and not-frozen. I’d be happy to risk my life hanging off the edge of a mountain to get the shot I am after, but perching my equipment on the same edge is a risk too far!

You can see all of the images from this set on David’s portfolio by clicking here.

American Horror Story – the Cover by Matthias Clamer

matthias clamer

When I saw this poster advertising American Horror Story I thought it would be almost entirely photo manipulation; I imagined that almost every element of the image was a composite from a different frame. However, Matthias Clamer has released a brief BTS video which shows it isn’t. Obviously there is a lot of Photoshop work done to the background and final image, but the technique for capturing the dress/tent is very interesting and I can imagine some incredible fashion images could be created with the same method.

How to Achieve Multiple Exposure Portraits

Multiple exposures is one of many techniques that has carried over from the days of film and dark rooms where one frame is superimposed on to another frame. The difficulty of this technique is not so much how to do it, but how to do it effectively. Finding two scenes that complement each other in both style, lighting, interest and composition is exceptionally difficult but ultimately rewarding if successful.

The above video is a guide on how to achieve multiple exposures both in camera and in Photoshop and is very helpful for anyone looking to try something new with their portraiture.

Lara Jade – Cheap Camera Challenge

DigitalRev’s Cheap Camera Challenge is a series I watch religiously. It seems to have got more and more extreme in its camera choices (I urge you to seek out Phillip Bloom’s episode). This particular episode saw Lara Jade – American based, England born fashion photographer – using an utterly ridiculous camera designed for children.

Before the big reveal at the end I was already impressed with how well Lara Jade had done in terms of directing and managing the models and locations in such a short time constraint and with no real equipment. In fact, when the first image she had processed flashed up, I found myself thinking ‘well, you can’t expect much more than that really…’ However, then she goes on to produce several images which despite their glaring lack of image quality, are fantastic. One example of which can be seen below:

lara jade cheap camera












I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that had that been taken on a DSLR, it wouldn’t be out of place in a magazine. This episode will certainly reside in many people’s anti-gear envy arsenal.


Lara Jade

McCullin: A Documentary on One of the Greatest War Photographers

Behind the Scenes of Mark Seliger’s Shoot with Lenny Kravitz

There are always myriad models I’d love to have a shoot with, but I find the subjects I most want to photograph are not models, or at least that’s not what they’re famous for. They’re talented and interesting people who excel at a profession. For me, Lenny Kravitz is right up there on that imaginary list.

When it comes to celebrity portraiture, the images that jump straight in to most people’s minds when given a name are usually the works of either Martin Schoeller or Mark Seliger. In the case of Lenny Kravitz, it’s the latter’s image that I think of since seeing it.

The video shows that for the shoot, Lenny and Mark go through a lot of different locations, lighting, outfits, poses and ideas, but it is such a simple concept that grabbed the spotlight. I am more inclined to elaborate photo shoots as opposed to studio work, but this image is undeniably iconic.

Mark Seliger’s Portfolio

Video by Profoto

Creating Realistic Lens Flare in Photoshop

For a long time I was completely against fake lens flares. The reason for this is that fake lens flares always looked fake. Then I saw behind the curtain on a few photographs that I thought had genuine lens flares that had actually been carefully added in post production and I changed my mind.

Photoshop has a wide array of lens flares and there are an abundance of action sets and plugins that can offer further variety. Despite this, no matter how many options you have, unless you take in to consideration how light behaves, it will very rarely look genuine and will often detract from your image.

Phlearn have created the above tutorial which creates believable and creative lens flares in Photoshop using only its default lens flare renders. This is achieved – above all – by approaching the image with careful regard for how the light sources would interact with the lens if it were to have created a flare in camera.

Joe McNally’s 30 Year Retrospective Exhibition

I’ve lost count of how many times I have featured Joe McNally or his work; he’s certainly a major name in photography and has been some time. As a photojournalist for the last thirty years he has produced a gargantuan body of work and some incredible portraiture.

There is currently an exhibition at the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico and it is displaying some of his greatest images over the last three decades. Unfortunately it is a little far for me to go, but if you’re close it looks well worth your time.


Through a Glass Darkly: A photo series by Nick Turpin

There’s something about staring out of windows on a rainy night, particularly in cities; it almost forces one to become reflective. Whatever the reason for this is, the consequent moments are private and often quite solemn and quiet. As a result, some might say that Nick Turpin’s photo series is invasive, but I do not agree. That is, I do not agree that it is more invasive than the brand of street photographer that we’re all more familiar with.

Through a Glass Darkly is a very simple project yet intriguing. I don’t even believe it is a voyeuristic intrigue, but rather a kind of dark and moody glimpse in to a commonality between many commuters. The windows foggy with condensation, the reflections of lights in London and the surrounding darkness frame Delphian images.

Nick’s Website

Nick’s Flickr

Nick’s Twitter

Commercial Retouching for L’Oréal Garnier

Please note, Andreas Brueckl’s upload of this video is currently private. I will change the link back to his video as soon as he returns it to public setting.

Very few types of portraiture avoid going through retouching. The fashion and beauty industries and the photographers that shoot for them are regularly under fire for the editing that takes place, particularly in advertising. A great number of the points raised are formed on valid grounds; the skin tone and texture, the eyes, the hair colour and sometimes even the facial and body shapes of the models are altered and it would be unrealistic to hold one’s self to post-production standards.

There is one related area of retouching that I haven’t seen any where near the same levels of criticism for and it’s arguably more influential: video advertising. I personally do not have a problem with retouching with the exception of drastic alterations to body shapes. One type of retouching I hadn’t given much thought to is the post-production efforts that go in to TV commercials for beauty and fashion products. The above video is courtesy of Andreas Brueckl and it shows how much effort goes in to colour grading in video.

Andreas admits that he doesn’t show much of the beauty and skin retouching that goes on but looking at the before and after shows that there was certainly work done in that area.

Andreas Brueckl has done some fantastic post-production on videos and his portfolio can be seen by clicking here.

Using Strip Softboxes for Dramatic Portrait Lighting

Photographer Andrea Belluso recently teamed up with Profoto demonstrate the uses of strip softboxes. The aim was to create a dramatic portrait of a pilot in a darkened hangar in front of a glider.

The image is perfectly composed and the lighting on the subject and the aircraft is superb leading to a very crisp and engaging shot.

It’s an interesting shoot and exemplifies just how powerful strip lights and strip softboxes can be in the creation of low key images.

Andrea Belluso’s portfolio