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Three Tips for Color Grading Concert Photos

Take your live music photos to the next level
concert photography

Photographing live music is all about timing and technique. It’s also one of the few times where the photographer has zero control over the lighting conditions. It’s not unusual for performers to be lit with strobing lights or extreme color casts. And while these elements look great on stage, they can be tricky to photograph. Although having subjects with perfect skin tones and pristine white balance isn’t usually possible, doing a bit of color grading can make a big difference. The folks from Mango Street share a few tips on how they approach color grading when editing concert photos. 

Tip #1: Adjusting for Skin Tone

If the colorcast on your subject is yellow, blue, green or magenta its pretty easy to get the subjects skin tone back to a more normal shade. Start by making white balance adjustments. If you are dealing with an image with a red color cast you will want to slide your tint all the way to green and slide the temperature to blue. From there make adjustments to the primary hues and saturation  in the calibration menu. Adding a mask to the subject will let you increase the exposure, without blowing out the background.

Tip #2: Embrace the Colorcast 

Sometimes the lighting during a live show is so dramatic that correcting for skin tones just isn’t going to work. It’s okay to embrace the moody lighting and enhance the color cast. Adding a color preset to a photo with an intense colorcast is a great place to start. From there you can enhance the temperature and hue of the image, depending on the colors in the image you can create some interesting duotone effects in the image. Another option is to use the color grading panel. Select global and move through the color wheel to see what the different effects might be. 

Tip #3: Stylized Edits

One of the great joys of concert photography is that there is a lot of freedom in post production. Many well-known concert photographers prefer a highly stylized approach when editing their images. Although a lot of work can be done in Lightroom, to use a technique like gradient mapping you will want to move your images over to Photoshop. Create a gradient map as an adjustment layer. Select the colors that you want to appear on your gradient map and then play around with blending modes and opacity to create something unique. 


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