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Cinematic style portraits are personally one of my favourites. What I like the most about them are the desaturated colours and the dramatic ambience.
Before we start the tutorial on colour grading, I will give you some of my best tips to achieve this cinematic look:
For the colour grading tutorial I am going to work on this image:
This image was taken on a Canon 6D, with an aperture of f/1.8, on a 50mm lens. This was taken during a short film where I was the photographer. There was a lighting behind the window aiming at the model, we added some fog to create this 1945 look.
What we’re going to do with this image is bring it back to life, by enhancing the contrast between the yellows in the highlights, and the greens in the shadows. We’re going to have a colour scheme based on analogous colours, going from green to yellow.
Let’s start with some basic exposure correction on Lightroom, this will depend on your image, so adjust accordingly.
After the basics are done let’s move the image over to Photoshop to start our colour grading. If you are using Lightroom just right click and choose Edit in Photoshop.
First, duplicate the layer in Photoshop so that you won’t do any destructive editing. You can always go back to the original layer if you don’t like the results.
The first thing we’re going to do is to create a new layer adjustment, go to: Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Lookup…
Pick filmstock_50.3dl and reduce the opacity of the layer to around 20%. You need to reduce the opacity otherwise the effect is going to be too strong.
Next thing we’re going to do is create a curves layer and redo the contrast. This will really depend on your image, so adjust according to your taste.
Then create another curves layer, go to the blue curve and lower the top right extreme of the layer. This will add yellow to your highlights.
Next step is to play around with the colour balance (make another new adjustment layer) to enhance to greens in the midtones and the yellows in the highlights. Once again just the sliders to add green and yellow to both the highlights and the midtowns.
Right now, we are basically done with colour grading. Lastly is to quickly dodge and burn, to enhance the light coming from the window, and to darken the image and the background. We are basically doing a manual vignette.
To lighten up the image, create a curves layer, make it brighter, and add a black layer mask (CMD/CNTRL+I to invert the layer mask). Call the layer Dodge, and paint with a white brush (because the mask is black) in the spots where you want to brighten up the image. Pick a brush with an opacity around 40% with and edge hardest of 0%
To create a dark layer, we will basically do the same thing but darken up the curves layer and paint over the spots in the image we want darker.
This is the final result:
Cinematic portraits rely heavily on great colour grading – but the lighting, model, camera settings and ambience should not be neglected. It all starts with a great image and ends with Photoshop to enhance your vision.
Enjoy the art !
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