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Using color to bring harmony to photographs

If you read my series on designing with photos you heard me mention color 'harmony' again and again. In those scenarios -- when you've got top-name designers and huge budgets -- you can do just about what you want.
      But what do you do if the photographer is on assignment -- hundreds of miles away -- shooting an event that happens only once, and all the elements in the setting seem to work against each other? After getting the images via email the next morning I couldn't hardly call the photographer to say 'shoot it again.'
      In this scenario the photographer had but one chance to create the images for a web page with an important, compelling story. In situations like this the only thing you've got to work with are the camera and your senses.
      The serious nature of the message dictated that the audience play an important role in the overall impact of the story. However, the lights were mixed incandescent and fluorescent, giving a greenish tint to the audience when the stage lights rendered flesh tones fairly well.
The Color That Binds
At the computer, bringing the images together gave sobering testimony that we would need to 'cheat' the colors so they would tell the story in a single compelling gulp.
      Since the speaker's shirt was a rich, bright, red, I decided that should be the color to bind together this overall scene. The shot of the audience was the essential element to the message so I would shift the color range of that shot.
      This can be done in any version of Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements as well as most other image processing software that allows a) layers, and b) selections by a color "range".
Multiply blending mode
I selected a red from the speakers shirt and then (Option/Delete) filled the entire new layer with that red. Click here to open the "audience" shot in layers.
      The audience shot was greenish, and the video camera in use had over-compensated for the lighting. The shot needed a lot of red added in addition to an overall darkening. Not wanting to disturb but rather preserve the highlights of the faces.
  • I used Select > Color Range, then selected 'Highlights.'
  • With a feather of 4, I switched to the color overlay and hit delete. (The active selection knocked out the highlight areas from the overlay.)
  • I then set the layer Blending mode to "Multiply" and used the Opacity slicer to reduce the opacity (increase transparency) of the overlay until the shot was just right. No other modifications were done.

The Results
You can see in the final web page how this little tweak binds together all three shots into a compelling story -- as if it happened that way.
      Remember the Multiply blending mode any time you need to 'richen' a photo. Use a color overlay, or a copy of the very same photo -- set the new layer to Multiply -- and then back off the opacity until the photo enters the range you desire.
      There are a dozen other ways to accomplish this very same effect, but this one was the quickest, and the only one to guarantee that the same red from the other shots would be used. Color levels, or Color Balance would have taken much longer in tweaking -- and would have affected all the color hues in the image.
      Try it. You might like it.
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