Cinematic Color Grading With Lightroom | JP Danko | Skillshare

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Cinematic Color Grading With Lightroom

teacher avatar JP Danko, Commercial Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Basic Adjustments

    • 3. Color Grading

    • 4. Presets

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About This Class

In this class,photographer JP Danko will demonstrate how to apply cinematic style color grading using the tools available in Adobe Lightroom (or Photoshop Camera RAW for Photoshop users). Students will learn how to color grade their photography and then create their own custom Lightroom color grading presets.

Meet Your Teacher

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JP Danko

Commercial Photographer


JP Danko is an active lifestyle photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. His work is distributed by Stocksy United.

JP also publishes a weekly photography column at, one of the worlds most popular online photography resources.

To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, Instagram and 500px.

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1. Introduction: Hello, everyone. My name is J. P. Denko. In this class, I'm going to show you how you can apply a cinematic style color grading effect to your own photography using light room. If you're a photo shop user, you can also do this exact same thing with photo shop camera raw. But for this class, I'm just gonna work right in light room using the tools that are available in ah, light room itself. So we're we're going to start with a sample photo, something like this, and then I'm gonna work through step by step. Everything that I would do to adjust that photo to apply a color grading look to finish with something that looks like this. And if you're familiar with this look, um, usually the shadows have a little bit of a blue or a teal tinge, and the highlights have a little bit of ah, warm tint to them. Um, sometimes it's, ah, little bit of a faded look as well. And then, by the end of the class, I'm gonna show you how you can save your work as a preset. So then when you're done, you can apply the exact same color grading Teoh Whichever photos that you want and that will allow you to get a consistent cinematic look. Ah, throughout your photography, using your own custom light room preset. So click enroll and let's get started. 2. Basic Adjustments: Hello, everyone. Welcome to cinematic color grading. Okay, I've got my sample photo imported into light room and opened up, and I'm in the develop module so I can assume that everybody can get to this point on your own. Um just want to mention quickly if you have any questions, or if I go through something in the class, that's maybe not quite clear. You need a little bit more information about please absolutely. Feel free to leave a comment in the class discussion, and I'll do my best to answer your questions and help you out and make sure that you get on the right track. So let's get started. I've got my image open here now before we get into the color grading itself. Um, let's just take a minute to talk about what our goal is for this picture because it's it's important to remember that we're talking about color grading another, you know, phrase, for that is just creative color adjustment. So the key there is that we're talking about a creative process where there's no writer wrong way on what to do here. So it just really comes down to what your creative, Um vision is for your own photography. So, you know, you don't have to follow exactly what I'm gonna do. The type of adjustments that I'm gonna apply. Try to take that as as a guideline, and then apply your own um um, interpretation of that, your to your photography. So the goal that I'm gonna try and do for this photo is the sort of typical cinematic look that we're used to seeing right now where the shadows have a bluish or teal color to them, and the highlights have a little bit of an orangish your warm color. So I'm gonna try to apply that to this image. Now, before we can do the color grading itself, we're gonna have to go through and just do our basic adjustments first. So to do that, I'm just gonna go over here into the basic panel, and I worked through the basic panel, Really? Just from top to bottom. Um, so to get started. Let's ah, let's look at the white balance here. Now. It looks pretty good as it is, But if I just try and find a neutral gray color here using the color temperature picker um ah, a little bit too warm. Let's try something. Maybe in her dress down here, that could be a neutral gray. It's still a little bit on the cool side. That didn't change much. Try a couple other spots to see if we can know that Looks to purple E. We're back here in the clouds again. That looks pretty good there. So I'm gonna use that as my base White balance. I'm gonna look at the exposure now in this particular photo, the exposure actually looks really good. So if I look at the history Graham here, you can see that I've got a nice, fairly even hissed a gram. If I click on this little triangle here, it will show any shadow clipping and you can see there's just a little bit of blue clipping , um, in the dark shadows there. So not really too worried about that. And, ah, if I click on the one on the right here to show any any highlight clipping and I don't see anything there, that's Ah, that's clip. So that looks pretty good. May just a teensy bit there in that speculum highlight in her glasses. But other than that, the exposure looks really good as it. So I'm not gonna do anything with that next. I'm gonna increase the contrast just a little bit to give these this photo a little bit more depth in detail. Highlights look fine, as is. I'm not going to touch that. Shadows. I'm gonna bring the shadows up a little bit. I just find that it often, um, helps to increase the you know, the look of your photos. Just by opening those shadows up there, add some detail into the darks. Do the dark areas. The whites look fine as is. I'm not gonna touch that. And then looking at the black site, almost always bring the relax down just a little bit again. It just adds that complete tonal range. Here. Photos. You have a complete black up to almost a complete light. Highlight. Now you can if you hold down bolts on your keyboard and click the black slider, you'll bring up the blacks clipping mask and it will show you as you bring this down. What blocks are being clipped here? So let go of Ault. It will show me that you know, in this coat here and in the genes That's almost 100% black. So I don't want that. I just want the blacks to be just just clipped in just a couple small areas. So, like, that looks pretty good. And then right now, I'm not gonna ply any clarity or vibrant, So I've pretty much done just my basic adjustment there. So now it's time, Teoh, Look at color grading this photo, so we'll cover that in the next video. 3. Color Grading: Okay, we've got our basic at It's done. So now it's time to apply our color grading. And like I mentioned in the first video, color grading is a creative process. So it's really up to you to create the look with the colors to match your particular artistic vision for your photo. So there's no right and wrong. But one just a little bit of warning here is that you want to go a little bit easy on this technique. Um, you don't want the color grading to stand out. As you know the first thing that people notice, you want them to notice the photo, and then the color grading is, um, sort of an accent to your picture. It's not, um, the main thing that people should be noticing when they when they look at your work. So let's get started. We're gonna go into the split toning panel to get going. No, often you can get a really good result just by split, toning your photos and not have to go any further than that. So we're gonna start there, and what the split 20 panel allows you to do is that you can apply a color to the shadows and a color to the highlights. And that's really what we're trying to do in color grading. So to start, if I just click on this little box here, it allow me to select a specific color. So in this case, in the shadows, I want sort of a bluish teal color. So I'm just gonna click kind of in the middle here, Um, maybe on that bluish teal color. So it looks good. So that applied, um, a blue teal color with a hue of 1 82 and ah, saturation in the mid fifties there. Now, just from experience, I know that I don't really want this to be, you know, at the high end of the saturation scale, because it's just way, way too strong. So I'm gonna bring that down somewhere around the 20 you know, 25% mark tends to tends to work. You don't want to overpower your work. No, it's ah. If we change the balance here, it just changes. How much of the photo is impacted by that split tone? So if I bring it to the right, um, it's on Lee. The darker shadows. And if I bring it to the left. It impacts more of the mid tones and the rest of the colors in the photo, so it's just gonna leave it in the middle for now for the highlights. Let's do the same thing. We're going to select a color in a kind of pick, sort of, Ah, a middle orangey red. So somewhere around there, probably try. That looks pretty good. So again, we've got a hue of 52 with a saturation of 51. So before we you know, that's way too strong as it is. So let's bring the saturation of that down down to the same sort of range we had for a blue . Um, so we're around the 1920 25 range, which looks good. Now let's finish the adjustment there by adjusting the balance so it's bring at either up which favours the highlights or down which favours the shadows. So I think maybe just down just a little bit, but minus 20 that looks pretty good. So we're already, um, if I go back to two Ah, where we started here, um, you can see that's where we began. And Ah, here we are now, So we're already starting to get a little bit of that color grading. Look, now, looking at this picture, I think the white balance adjustment I did right at the beginning was maybe a little bit too much on the warm side for the final look that I'm trying to achieve. So I'm just gonna bring that white balance back down a little bit and give it a bit more of a cool color cast. So, yeah, I think there looks good, which is, I think, right around the ah, the actual white balance that this photo was taken in coincidentally. But anyway, one thing I just noticed here is there's a bit of sensor desk or something. Lens spot right there. So I'm just gonna delete that click on the, um, spot removal tool and then click on that and get rid of that. Now, let's fine tune our colors a little bit. And to do that, we're gonna use thea curves adjustment with the tone curve, So click on the tone curve panel. And if you see Channel RGB, you're in the right place. If not, just click this little toggle here that toggles between the point adjustment curve and ah, the channels curve. So you should see Channel RGB. That's the right one. And if I click on RGB it ah brings up the red, the green and the blue channel so I can adjust the colors, um, in each of these channels individually. So let's start with Thea with the Red Channel. And if I bring the ah, click on the tone curve if I bring that up, you see, it adds red. If I bring it down, it subtracts red, which is also the same, is adding scion. And I don't really want to do that in this particular photo. Um, so I'm just gonna right click and then flattened curve. If I go to the green same thing if I click on it and drag it up and see ads green, If I drag it down, it subtracts green or ads magenta. So it's flattened that, and then the blue ah channel. If I click on that and drag it up, adds blue. If I drag it down, it subtracts blue or ads yellow. So let's flatten that now. I just want to add a little bit of blue, um, into the shadows here. So I'm gonna try and just grab that kind of near the bottom of that blue channel and raise that just a little bit to increase the blue color in the shadows. And I can even grab the bottom of that curve and bring that up and even clipped that off so that, uh, the blue and the darkest shadows air have a blood of a bluish tinge. Now, I want a flat note the rest of this curve because I don't want that to infect my skin tones too much so And click up there, bring that down and then try and flatten out the rest of the curve there so that that color adjustment that I made down here doesn't apply to the mid tones in the highlights. Let's go up to the red curve. Um, let's try adding a little bit of Sai into the shadows as well. So I've bring that down just a little bit, try clipping as well. And then again, we're gonna flatten the rest of the curve because I don't want those adjustments to apply to the mid tones in the highlights. So just flatten that it like that que looking better. Let's go back to our, um or we started here. So that's Ah, where we Ah, we brought her photo in, and then Ah, here's where we are now. So we're getting there now. We're gonna just the individual colors. So if I click on the color, um, it opens up the color adjustment panel and this is a really awesome panel because you can adjust the individual colors, the hue, saturation, the loo, minutes of every individual color in your photo, which is amazingly powerful. So let's go down and we're gonna start from the bottom that theme agendas and the purples. There's not a lot of magenta and purple in this photo. So any adjustment that I make here is not gonna have a really big impact on my picture. So I'm just gonna leave those alone Now, the blue I would like to bring up the blue saturation. I want that to be a little bit more, um, punchy in this photo. So it's bring that up saturation of the blues up. Let's just play around with the hue of the blues well, and see what happens. So if I bring it to the left, Yeah, That doesn't look good for you to the right. It makes purple. Not good either. So I'm just gonna leave the hue right where it is. Let's do the same thing with Aqua. Not a lot of difference there, so I'm just gonna leave that the green. There is some greens in this photo. The Joshua tree in the background has some green in it. So bring the saturation that green up just a little bit. I don't think the Hughes gonna have a really big impact. Maybe a little bit left. Their looks good. You know, the red, the orange in the yellow. I have to be a little bit careful with, because that's also the skin tone. So I don't want toe adjust those too much, but, um, let's try just just tweaking the Hugh. Uh, no, nothing there. I don't want to look purple. Don't want to look green, so no, just leave those right where they are. Okay, I think I'm pretty good with the color. Now, just a few other little tricks to do to really give this. Ah, a bit of a cinematic feel, so I'm gonna go down to the detail panel now. If you've seen some really high end photo shop retouching, they use a technique called frequency separation. So they allows them to smooth out and blend the shadows, but not affect the colors. Um, and what it gives you is sort of a look where the shadows air are kind of blurred through the photo. But you still have the details along the edges in the color, and we can sort of mimic that kind of look by using noise reduction and sharpening in light room. No, of course, it's not the same as actually doing a frequency sector separation adjustment in photo shop . But, you know, for our purposes, it can look pretty good. So I'm just gonna bring up the luminous noise reduction. Now, normally, I would only bring this up just enough to get rid of the noise in the photo, But in this case, I'm gonna overdo it, too, over smooth, um, sort of the details in the in the image. And so if I bring that way up and then bring that detail slider up a little bit to recover some of the details, it it really smooth things. Um, smooths Thea sort of the texture in the photo, but it retains the detail on the edges and to bring a little bit more detail back into the edges. I'm gonna bring the sharpening slider up, um, to a point where, you know, I've kind of over sharpened, so let's look at something like her face there, so they're starting to see the artifacts, but okay. And then if I click on the sharpening mask And if you hold down all it shows you specifically what in your photo you're sharpening. So just bring that to the right until you know, you're sharpening sort of the edge details, but you don't want to sharpen the clouds and anything. That's, um, a monotone. So I think that looks pretty good there. I'm just gonna go back. Ah, a couple spots here to show you the difference that this looks. So that's how it looked before we applied that luminant sin, the sharpening. And there's with that sort of frequency separation Look that we're trying to mimic. If I zoom in, um, just fill this and try that again. So there it is, with the illuminates and the sharpening and without so gives it just a little bit more of Ah, you know, the retouched Look, let's go back and fit that on screen. Okay? We're getting there. No. A lot of times when you're looking at, um, these types of photos that that have the color grading done on them. Um, a lot of times they apply, um, channel clipping so that they they clip the deep shadows so they will have a little bit of a faded look. So we're gonna do that now? So gonna go back to our tone curve, click on the RGB. So this is all the curves for all the color channels, and I'm gonna bring up that curve right at the bottom here. So this is gonna clip the blacks. I'm gonna bring it up just a little bit. So if you go up, you know too far you really fade that out, but just a little bit so that we've just faded some of those, really, You know, the blacks and the really dark shadows. No, I don't want the curve to be linear all the way up, so I'm gonna click somewhere just in the in the dark shadows and bring that back down and then smoothing that cur vote again. So now we've just kind of clipped the dark shadows off, and we've given it that kind of faded. Look, now, to finish this off, I'm gonna try applying a little bit of clarity. Um, And then bring that saturation up a bit, too. Not too much right there. Looks good. And then the last thing I'm going to do is apply some Grady INTs here to sort of bring the focus into the subject of this image. So let's ah, crop a little bit. Use the crop tool. And, um, I just want to crop this little bush on the side there. It's kind of distraction having that right on the edge. This also brings the third point right into the middle of the two subjects there. So it looks good, all right. And then we're gonna just apply some Grady INTs here, So let's start by making the bottom Ah, a little bit darker. Let's bring the exposure of that Grady in down. Looks good. Do the same thing up here in the sky, trying to even out the sky from this side to this side. So let's bring that exposure that guy down a little bit now. Kind of a common problem with using Grady INTs if you drag them over your subject, Um, you know, I'm darkening my subject here so we can change it if we just click on brush, click on a race, and that will bring you up a brush that you could actually a race, Um, that Grady int from part of your photo here. So I'm just gonna I'm just going to use that brush to erase that part of the Grady int that's over the subject here. That looks pretty good. And the last thing I'm going to do is get out a little bit of in yet. So again, you know, this is totally up to you, your artistic vision. You don't want to go heavy with this. Otherwise, it looks, you know, obvious that you've added a vignette. But in this case, I think it could use just ah, a little bit of ah, even yet So pros crop vignette and bring that down just a little bit. And I think that looks pretty good. There may be the exposure of the total image could just go up just a touch and maybe one more Grady in in from this side and try an adjustment brush. I think the exposure is just a little bit different here. So the exposure on her is just a bit brighter than it is on the guys. So let's ah, let's bring that exposure up just a little bit and paint that in. Okay, so I think we are done. So let's just go back to the beginning. So here is our image out of camera. This is how it looked when we took it. Um, this is our basic adjustments done and then come up and our final color graded finished image. So in the next video, going to show you how to save this as a preset so that you can apply the exact same look to all of your photos. 4. Presets: Now that we've done all that work to create the perfect color grading for our photo, Um, it's a good idea to save that as a preset so we can apply that exact same look to multiple photos. So to do that, just scroll up to the top here on the left and you'll see, besides the presets panel, there's this little plus button. So if you click that, that will bring up the new developed preset Ah, module here. So what's, ah, name our new preset, uh, color grading. It's called color grading one, just in case. We're going to do this multiple times with slightly different looks we want to be able to do for in shape between them and ah, right now it's got all of the settings checked off, so I don't want to apply our initial adjustments that we did way back at the beginning when we did the basic adjustments of, um, the white balance exposure highlights blacks, that kind of thing. We don't, um I want to apply those in a preset. We're gonna do that separately for each individual photo cause they can all be slightly different. We just want to apply the color grading itself, Um, as a preset. So if we go up here, we want to turn off. Ah, white balance. The basic toning. We don't want to apply the tone curve. Yes, we won't apply that clarity. Yes. Sharpening, Yes. Treatment Coloring up for sure. Ah, color saturation, Vibrance color. Yet we want apply that split toning yet Want to play that graduated filters? No, we don't want apply that either, because every photo is has got slightly stick different. Ah, composition And the graduated filters will be different for each photo. So we don't want to apply those as a preset um, noise reduction. Yes. We're gonna apply that the lens corrections were not going to apply those because again, they're different for each photo. And then, ah, any of these effects, we can apply that. And ah, everything there looks good. So let's click, create. And now you can see over here we've got a new preset called color grading one. So now I can go over to a new photo. So this is another image part of the same Siri's. So it's a very similar photo and I'm going to go through and apply my basic adjustments like we did in the first video. So here have got the exposure. The contrast highlights blacks. All that everything we that we did in the basic panel is already done here. So you kind of have to do that for each individual photo. And then we can go ahead and go up to our preset color grading one and just click on that. And it applies all the exact same adjustments that we did an original photo. So now you've got a nice, consistent look to your work. So there's our first image. Another image in the same Siri's, with the exact same adjustments applied to it with the same preset. So continuing to another photo similar? Not quite the same. I've already done the basic panel adjustments here. Let's apply that preset. So there we go. Looks pretty good. Now, in this one, I'm gonna you know, we go back in and apply those greedy INTs that we did that are not part of the preset and, ah, you know, just to kind of add a little bit more interest there and ah, let's bring in another one from over here, too. It's too much back that off a bit. Okay, that looks good. And to me, this maybe looks a little bit Ah, too orangey. So we can also adjust all the adjustments that we did that we have in the preset in individually. So if I go down to my split toning, I'm gonna get rid of that highlight. Ah, tone where I made it the highlights orange and just gonna bring the saturation down on that 20 And, um, maybe you're going to go up to the tone curve here. And let's let's just kind of, um let's make this one a little bit less punchy than the last adjustment that we did. So I'm gonna flatten this blue curve right click flattened curve. And that, uh, just makes it a little bit more neutral closer to what the original photo look like. So, you know, we use the same preset, and then we just tweaked, um, the adjustments that we had made in that preset to ah to change it for this particular image. So, you know, here's another photo part of the same syriza little bit. Ah, a little bit different setting. Let's try applying that preset and ah, there you go. So in this particular one, I don't know, maybe that could use a little bit more contrast. And ah, you know, I don't really like the faded look so much in this photo. So if I want to change that, I'm gonna click on the tone curve RGB and I'm gonna flatten this Ah, this red green blue RGB tone curve. So that brings this photo back to an image that has a full dynamic range from, ah, full black Teoh White in the highlights so that the blacks aren't clipped here. It doesn't have that faded look anymore. And, um, you know, I think let's bring the clarity up a little bit in there to make this a little bit punch here, bring the exposure up a touch and, ah, let's add a couple of radiance here. So that finishes this image off a little bit. Let's bring that down and let's bring this down a little bit to add some detail into the clouds, bring up the clarity and then finally, um, a completely different photo from, you know, obviously completely different. Siri's, um So again, I've done my basic panel adjustments and I'm going to click my color grading preset. Now that applies that same preset. And in this particular one, the fate of look looks OK, but I think I'm going to get rid of that again. So right, click on that RGB tone curve. Let's flatten the curve. And, ah, you know, I think that the color, um it's just a little bit too strong. So I'm gonna go back to that blue. I'm gonna flatten that curve and then, um, do the same thing we did with the last one in the, uh in the split tone and bring that saturation of the highlights down a little bit. Bring it back down to bit more normal. So now I'm really only affecting the the shadows that have that blue look. Let's bring in. Ah, a couple, Grady. In Syria bringing exposure down a little bit, I'm gonna bring an ingredient from each side. There we go. And you know what? I think maybe I'm going to try and make that background even a little bit more bluish. So I'm gonna bring this saturation of that split tone up. Just a touch there. That looks pretty good. So what happens if we change the balance here. That looks good. So there you go. You got another a different look using the same color grading preset on ah, completely different photo. But you're not stuck with the changes that you used. You can You can tweak those individually, um, as you would. Any normal adjustment just gives you a head start. So there you go. There's how you can apply cinematic color grading right inside light room, how to create your own preset and how to apply it to different photos so that your work can have a consistent look. And I hope you enjoyed this class. And I really want to encourage everybody to do the assignment for the course, which is to, um, go through color grade one of your photos and then create a preset, Um, export that and upload it to the to the discussion of module, and you'll get feedback for me directly and also from other students of in the class. So hope you enjoyed that, and, ah, we'll see again soon