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Image Toning to Create Distinct Looks in Photoshop

Lesson 34 from: Wedding Photography: Capturing the Story

Rocco Ancora, Ryan Schembri

Image Toning to Create Distinct Looks in Photoshop

Lesson 34 from: Wedding Photography: Capturing the Story

Rocco Ancora, Ryan Schembri

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Lesson Info

34. Image Toning to Create Distinct Looks in Photoshop


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Define the Goals of Wedding Photographers


The Importance of Wedding Photographers


Shooting Philosophy


How to Build a Shot List - Bride, Groom & Formals


Tye the Wedding Story Together


Capture Stories in Wedding Pictures


Get the Right Exposure


Lesson Info

Image Toning to Create Distinct Looks in Photoshop

Now I'm going to share with you little bit about toning images and how we can tone images through Photoshop and the amount of control, you know, that we can have on an image in Photoshop. I'm just gonna open up one image that's retouched but not toned yet. Okay. So lets just turn that off. So here we've got a black and white image, okay, which we've created with some curves here for dodging and burning. And what we've done is, what we're about to do is, we're about to tone the image based on a specific tonal range within that image. Okay? But before we do that, we need to do a little bit of theory as to how that works, okay? And I'm gonna show you just how that works, right now. So, here we go. Now this is something that we did earlier. We've Blend If and Modes. Okay, now what I've done here is I've got tonal scale from a pure black to a pure white, okay? So it represent the full tonal scale of an image. From shadows to meek tones through the highlights. On the bottom, I've got exactly...

the same, but I've done at a different color, for the purpose of this exercise. And I'm gonna show you how Photoshop blends you know, using Blend If modes. And lets have a look. Now, if I go into Layer, okay, Layer Style, Blending Options, what comes up is this, okay? It's This Layer, Underlying Layer, which is something we did with the skin retouching earlier. And yet, that looks awfully like this, doesn't it? Where we've got one layer on top of the other layer. So now, how do we get Photoshop to use specific sections of one tonal range and not the other to be able to blend different tonal ranges. Now, watch what happens here as, I'm not sure (mumbles) bring this up to the top so we can see it. And we'll bring this up again. So, we got the two layers. This layer, if I start to bring that left hand point, which is the shadowed point to the right, what are we doing? We're actually revealing what's underneath, is that right? Yeah? So it's almost like we're pulling the curtain. But the beautiful thing with this is that the top layer, only this tonal range of the top layer, is going to interact with the bottom layer. And I can push that all the way to or whatever I want, to my mid-tones. And use only a portion of one layer as opposed to the other. There's still a problem there. The problem is that the transition here is extremely harsh. Would you agree? It's a very straight line. We can blend that by hitting the Alt key on the keyboard and hitting the black arrow, we can split that and blend it through. So now at the moment, if I press okay, from the top layer, all I have is this portion of that layer, that tonal range, which is very specific based on numbers that we've chosen to be able to blend through. That means in can apply color to a specific tonal range without affecting any other part of the image. So lets go back into that. And if that's for the shadows, I could do the same for highlights, okay? And I can hit the Alt key on the keyboard and blend it right through to the shadows. Okay, and if I turn off the bottom layer, you'll notice that out of the top layer, all I have is the, you know, the graduated shadows that I've actually had. So, taking this a step further again, what happens when I just wanna deal with a mid-tone? Well, I can bring this two points in, and blend them through, which is what we did earlier. Bingo! Mid-tone. Which is where we wanted to apply that softening technique to the face. So, are you all excited? I just need to settle down, coz the noise is deafening in here. How do we apply this in a real life world. Okay. Let me just delete these layers here. I can have a Hue and Saturation layer, okay. And I'm gonna hit Colorize. And I'm gonna pick a pretty hideous color, just for the purpose of the exercise. I'm gonna apply this color just to a highlight. How do we do it? By double click just outside of where it says Hue and Saturation, just there. Okay, double click on to that. It'll automatically bring my Layer Style up. Okay, my Blending Options. And I push that to the right, top layer. You can see what's happening on the image on the left hand side. It's stripping the color from the shadow areas. Hit the Alt key and I'm gonna blend that through right to 255. What I've done now is I've applied that particular color, to where? Just my highlights. So there it is. Nice, minty green, black and white, which is what everybody wants. My brides really go for it. So, what we can do, is now apply real tone to that. Lets just go for a nice, warm tone, like this. Okay, so now I've got that beautiful control of you know, the amount of tone I put in a highlight. But having said that, also, I can change that. I'm gonna call that a highlight tone. Lets double click onto this. So highlight tone and I'm gonna create a Hue and Saturation layer again. And this one is going to be a shadow tone, okay? It's doing it again. Aren't I lucky? So this is our shadow tone, which is awesome. So we got the shadow, highlight tone. Lets pick a color for the shadows. Lets pick a nice, rich, warm color. So we have highlights that are warm, but shadows that are warmer, which is reminiscent very much of when we used to tone in the dark room, you know, CB prints. So, lets have that and then we will click on to our Layer Style. And what we'll do is we'll move the highlight to the left. Wanna remove that tone from the highlights and then Alt+click or Command+click on the Mac, and we've created this nice, beautiful tone. So you can see this nice, beautiful, subtle tone that's appearing in the shadows. And it's very reminiscing of you know, I guess the photographic toning of those gone past. You know, having these beautiful highlights, you know, shadows, and then we can keep on applying different tones to highlight, shadows. The same applies for a color image. If you have a color image where, you know you get those images where, for whatever reason the groom's shirt looks blue, and it doesn't matter what you do, it's blue, because of the frequency of light that's hitting it or whatever's in the material it's making it look blue and the bride's dress is pure white, this is how you fix it. Okay, you create a warm tone through the highlight, mask it out, then what we do is we brush it in to the area where the shirt is to make it appear white. Coz essentially what we wanna do, is remove that yucky sort of, bluey tone, out of the highlight areas. The same thing goes for shadows. When you have nasty casting shadows, you can correct them using this technique. It's a very simple technique but it's very very powerful. And once again, when you combine this with actions, you can have an action that just tones your highlights, which is what we do, and action that just turns your black and white scene to the shadows and et cetera, et cetera. Okay? So, very very powerful technique. You have questions, Kristi? We just got a question here about how this technique is different from doing the split toning in light room? Are they similar? Yeah, they're very very similar. What I find with doing it through Photoshop, if I'm doing, say, a larger print, it just gives me more control, coz I can go in there and paint it into certain sections and mask it out where I don't want it. It's just a little bit more control. But if I was doing this like, if this was just a normal size print for an album, I would probably do it through light room. But if it was a major, say, double page spread on a page and, you know, lots of beautiful detail, then I would wanna tone this through Photoshop and just apply a little bit more extra care because of the size it's gonna be. The same thing if the client order say maybe a 30-40 canvas of this, you know, I wanna apply nice, beautiful retouching and beautiful toning because you just have that more accuracy to be able to do it. Yeah? Good? Okay. We're good. Yeah. Awesome. Let's do something else here, with this image. So I'm just gonna bring back the background image. One of the other great advantages, I guess working in Photoshop, is really, I guess the ability to be able to work with tone separate to color. And this is a pretty much an advanced technique but if you are doing something that's a little bit more high end, like I said, an enlargement or maybe a double page spread, this will be a technique that you can use. Now, Photoshop gives us the ability to be able to separate color from tone, totally. So, in the way it does that is-- Think of it this way, color images are made up of RGB channel, plus there's a luminance channel in there, black and white layer. The beauty when we separate the two is that we can work with the luminance of an image totally separate to the color. So you'll note that if I apply a curve here, to this image, and I darken it, its pretty difficult to see on the screen but we get a huge color shift. So not only does the image go darker, but what happens is that because those three beautiful channels are also in there, your red, green and blue, they also get pushed down. And we are changing the appearance of the color. If we now split luminance from the color, and work with them separately, right? We've got an incredible amount of flexibility. So I'm gonna just copy the background, twice. And I'm gonna call the top layer, color. And the bottom layer, luminance. Okay and as we show off the color layer, I'll work with the luminance and we're gonna extract the black and white channel out of this. The way we do that, we're gonna go into Edit, Fill, 50% gray, Blending Mode of Color, yeah. And hit OK. Taking my toning off. And we have a black and white image. Now the black and white image here, the tones that are present in here are based on the luminance values of the color present in the original image. So it's really a really good black and white to begin with. You'll notice we have beautiful tone separation everywhere. Like I said, a good black and white, stems from a really good color image. So now lets separate the color from the image. And then click on to the color layer, gonna go into Edit, Film, and 50% gray again, but the Blending Mode now is Luminosity. So essentially, what we're doing is filling the luminosity channel with gray. Before, we did that with the color. So we eliminated color out of the equation by filling it with gray. So luminosity, and we get this. So now we just separated just the color from the image. And when we overlay one on top of the other, we get the original image. So if I change now, the Blending Mode of this into Color, I go back to the original image. But the beauty of this is that in between the color and luminous, if I apply a Curves layer, and I darken the image, I don't effect color. And that's something that's really cool because that gives you options. It gives you possibilities to do some really, really advanced, dodging and burning. And you know, respecting the color. So you don't have that shift that happens with color images. Essentially, sometimes I will use this technique just to create a really nice, beautiful, clean black and white. Once again, because the black and white is really based on the luminance values of the color itself. And there's many different ways of doing black and whites in Photoshop. But this I think is the most effective, coz off the bat, you're just getting a really, really good tonal range. Okay? So, adding contrast to the black and white layer is also easy, by creating a gradient map. Just black to white. Okay. And if I turn that on and off, you'll see how we just adding a subtle amount of contrast. So now, with the highlighting, shadow tone, we split it to use it as a toning technique. But there's far more to that technique than just color. In fact, I can actually target a specific tone and almost make it jump out of the page if I want to. I'm gonna do that with highlights. So when we're dealing with wedding images, we want this nice, beautiful, luminous dresses. And the way the technique works is we create a Curves layer, and we don't do anything to it, whatsoever, and we're gonna go into Layer, Layer Styles, Blending Options, and for this, I'm gonna select my highlights only, okay? So I'm gonna go to about 80, blend it through that tonal range. So this Curves layer, which I'm gonna call, highlight pop. Here we go. Highlight pop, okay? Is now only acting within a certain tonal range. Watch what happens now when I change the blending mode of that. So I'm just gonna go to full screen so you can see a bit better. Now, watch this area here. Highlight pop, going to screen, and we just turned on the lights, everywhere, but just on a specific tonal range. Photoshop masks are just amazing because I can now paint that effect into a specific area using 100%. And we're just gonna make her jump out of the environment that she's in. Isn't that awesome? Okay, and this is how we get this nice, beautiful rendition of times. So it's pretty awesome, this technique. The same thing, if you wanted to bring, you know, shadow detailing. It's like the opposite end, and you pull a curve and just, brighten shadows that way, you know, for you to allow you to be able to do that. Yes? Do you have these actions already setup in your shop? Yeah. (mumbles) Yes Thank you. Thank you very much. They're already setup, absolutely. So, highlight pop is very, very useful. Okay? So, we're gonna finish today with, getting more detail out of the image with a technique that's been really around for quite some time. We got luminance layer, down below, here. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna duplicate it, twice. Okay, I'm gonna invert the top layer. Okay, I'm gonna change the blending mode of that to Vivid Light. Okay? The image will go nice and gray, which is what's happening here. In fact, what I'll do is I'll just turn off my adjustment layers just to show you what's actually happening. I'm gonna go into Filter, Blur. Lets do, say, Surface Blur. I'm gonna pick a radius of 30 and a threshold of 30. And what this is actually doing, it's almost creating like a texture map. So it's a gray layer, with highlights and shadows, highlights and shadows. So, if we just cancel that for a minute and, I'm gonna go into Edit, Fill, I'm gonna fill a layer with 50% gray just to show you how this is actually working and why is it working, and I paint, not that color, not that color, (mumbles) So, solid black line, solid white line, change the blending mode of that to, Soft Light. What's happening is, whatever's black is darkened, whatever's white, if I keep on paining white on here, you know, brightens. Okay? And whatever was gray, is untouched. So that's the theory behind it. So how wonderful would it be, if we can actually apply that, by using something like Surface Blur, and let Photoshop create this beautiful highlight and shadow dodging and burning map, to accentuate the depth of the image where we can. So, radius of 30, threshold of 30, you can bring it up high, I don't like to bring it up too high, because, we don't wanna get haloing or anything like that. I'm gonna press OK. Now this being a 16-bit image, it takes some time to actually process. So it'll probably take a minute or so, and really it's dependent on the processing speed of your computer. So while this is rendering, lets have a question maybe, Kristi. Absolutely. We have a question here about your black and white conversion. Are there things you look for in an image, like you're saying it takes really great color image. Are there qualities about a color image that help you choose which way to convert a black and white, which technique to use? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I look for, like strong colors. If we've got, say, an image where we have, beautiful blue skies, and we've got greenery, then we got our bride and groom. I mean, as a black and white conversion, I would probably not use this technique. I would go into something like channel mixer and I will mix up the different channels, because I'd like to get nice, beautiful, dark blue, which is essentially, a black almost in the sky, to give it more drama, and then lighten the yellows and greens to make them appear more wispy if you like. And just create more depth and separation. So you look at the image and then there's different techniques of applying the black and white itself. Or even just through an adjustment layer of black and white and playing around with the sliders, you know, gives you a good result. The generics of black and white conversion, like if you're doing specially for a lot of my PJ work that I do with my clients, it's all about environment dodging and burning, just the luminance light to create my black and white, that is it. I try to keep it as simple as possible. So once, now this is come up. So I've got my little dodging and burning map, what I do now is I need to merge down these two layers. Because this layer, is giving us this effect, because it's interacting through Vivid Light through the background layer. Okay so, if I turn that off, by itself it really doesn't look like that. It actually looks like this because it's a blurred layer. Okay so, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna press Command+E, or Control+E on a PC, and combine the two layers together. So I've got that. I'm gonna switch on my adjustment layers as well. And then what we do is change the Blending Mode of that to Soft Light. Turn that on off. Yep. And the beautiful thing is that, no haloing, anywhere. Because we haven't used nasty plugins, that do all sorts of nasty things to a (mumbles) And once again, I would probably not be a patsy of that pack. And if I really wanted to be more precise, I will create a layer mask into this, mask it out, and paint in details where I wanted to bring attention to the viewer. Okay? We have a question here about, how do you handle really grainy images? If someone is shooting something, especially at a wedding, in low light, and a really high ISO, what do you do about grain and noise in an image when you retouch it? Grain and noise, probably one of the good things is, once again an Imagenomic plugin called Noiseware. Okay, this is what I use. Noiseware. It's really cool for getting rid of noise, if you shot at a high ISO. The problem that a lot of the times, when you shoot in high ISO, and we covered this in previous lessons, is not so much the fact that it is the high ISO giving you the noise, but rather the underexposure. Slight underexposure of the high ISO film, will lead in to very very noisy shadows. So you wanna be able to eliminate that. Sometimes, it's better, like, to push that histogram as far as you possibly can to the right, especially when you're shooting high ISO, to eliminate that really gritty kind of appearance. Different camera sensors deal with noise very differently. Some are better than others. But generally, if you really wanna keep your images really super duper clean, then using something like Noiseware, it's really really cool. But I actually enjoy grain in my images, you know. When we shot film, images add character, because of the grain factor. But now we've become obsessed with everything just being so clean and pristine but, I can tell you now, if you create an image, that has, sometimes I actually add noise, to shadows to give it a little bit more character, it just looks totally different than this just, matted and smoothed out kind of image. So, yeah.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Posing Guide Book Chapter

Ratings and Reviews

Jerry Willis

Ryan & Rocco, in my very humble opinion, are THE best wedding photography instructors in the entire industry! I've been watching their work for years now, which just so happens to win a most grand-scaled competitions, and they somehow continue to keep getting better! I first drilled Ryan at WPPI inquiring about what made his workshop different from all the others. His response, me paraphrasing, "If you're looking for tools to learn, come to my workshop. If you're looking for inspiration and smoke blowing, don't come." That's exactly what I needed to hear. Straight tools, no fluff. THE BEST photography workshop I've EVER taken, by far. You want the best photography education, learn from the best. This CreativeLive workshop is the PERFECT complimentary refresher and companion to what I learned! Thank you so much for having them! It's not the same as the workshop, which it shouldn't be, but they ARE reinforcing many things that have slipped my memory! I'm for sure buying this! :-)

Neeraj Arora

WOW!!! I have started a few CL courses but not finished as I got distracted by "life" and it took me a while to get back and finish them. But these guys!! They were simply superb. I finished this course really fast. Amazing artists, they explain things so well, Ryan is such a charmer and engaging teacher, Rocco is a fountain of knowledge. I am an enthusiastic photographer with aspirations to start my own business soon. I learn't so much from this class that will help improve my photography even if I don't become a professional wedding photographer. Great job guys, keep it up. I will need to come back to the lessons and I very much appreciate the key note pdf. All CL courses should include the slides like they did here. Thanks CL.


I am a newborn photographer by trade, but I really want to venture out and photograph more weddings so I decided to purchase a wedding class on creative live. Of course when I typed in wedding, quite a few classes came up. But when I saw the image and title "capture the story" I was definitely intrigued. I've always been touched by the photographs that have emotion and that's what I'm passionate to photograph! Always a little nervous when you purchase a class because you don't want to feel like it was a waste of money, but this knocked it out of the park for me! Thank you to Ryan and Rocco for explaining so much, showing the pull backs, and moving your subject and explaining why! This has opened my eyes so much to how beautiful photographing a wedding can be and not so terrifying as I've been making it out to be. I'm really so thankful to hopefully being a great wedding photographer and making more income for my family, while having fun creating something beautiful

Student Work