Even if you meticulously color manage your photos you could still be making a major color grading mistake. That’s the message from photographer Blake Rudis of f64 Academy who explains in the below tutorial how to “avoid the number one mistake in color photography.”
“By now, you know, I really enjoy working with color, color theory, and color grading. I have spent the better part of the last eight years devoted to the topic of Color Theory for Photographers,” Rudis says.
“Through those years I would like to say I have seen it all, but I am still open to surprises. One mistake I see very often in either my critique sessions or in photos I see online is the misuse of saturation. Saturation is not a bad thing, and quite frankly you shouldn’t avoid it in your work. But you should know how to work with it.”
Ah yes, saturation. Overuse it and your photos will look garish and unnatural. Underuse saturation and they may look flat and dull.
“Increasing saturation does not equal color grading and in some ways goes against many of the laws of color theory or the guide of color theory we use in our art,” he explains. “In order for me to really drive this home, I’m going to introduce you to some of the painting techniques I used several years ago when I was a painter.”
As you’ll see in the nearly 15-minute tutorial below, Rudis demonstrates how his color technique has its roots in mistakes he made in the early days of HDR (yes, we all remember our eye-burning errors from the early days of HDR), and how he was able to fix them by approaching photography as he previously approached painting.
Then he explains how to add value to saturation in photography to make color less intense yet still vibrant. After that he address some issues that arise with oversaturating color in portrait photography. Finally, Rudis shares some ways to improve saturation by using complementary colors and how to avoid oversaturation in general.