All images need to have a true black and a true white. If printing in a dark room, this is one of the first elements you will be searching for. All digital images require toning. A big reason for this is the digital photography does not have the tonal range of film. Until we have digital cameras with true 64mega pixels (Although, I’ve heard it said that megapixels are a lie. I don’t know. This is the quick guide.)
Basic toning then, is giving a true black and a true white. I start this process by increasing the brightness and the blacks in my Raw Processing stage, but when I look again, I never find what I have done sufficient. So I go into my curves. And increase the blacks and the whites. I tend to do far more with the blacks than the whites. The curves themselves tell you where to go.
See where the curve starts on the left hand side? That’s the beginning of the blacks. You have to move your tonal marker here. See where the curve ends. That’s where the whites end. Thus, to have a true black and a true white, you need to have the photo’s curve begin at the beginning of the whites, and end at the end of the whites. I do like to crush the blacks a bit – go a little further, to make the image even richer and counteract the washing out effect of the web. I also tend to pull down at the center point a little to give a bit more contrast as well.
The web desaturates your images and videos. To counter this, it’s a good idea to boost the saturation of your images. Many of the best photographers do this regularly, and even to extreme. It’s a common contest related complaint that all the images are oversaturated. Those who win, however, tend to be oversaturated. I don’t know what to do with that. I’m noting it here but not worrying about it. Maybe it’s just the same as using Velvia. I say do what you think is right and don’t ever forget about your subject.
Regardless of the controversy, you, with your images and video on the web, will need saturation to even make things look right.
Images in Final Cut and the Web
Color profiles are incredibly important. You need to use the correct one for the color space in which you are going to be in, or you will lose all the beautiful adjustments you have made. When printing, nearly every paper type for each different printer has it’s own specific profile. That’s how important profiles are. There can be slight shifts in color and toning (very minor) when you make the transition, so if your image has only one destination, you should change the profile before making toning and saturation adjustments.
For Final Cut, you need to be in Apple RGB.
For the web, sRGB.
You can change the color profile by going to Edit > convert to Profile. Then you must select the appropriate profile.
You can also set the profile as you are Raw processing in Photoshop. The option is located at the bottom of the Raw dialogue box, where one is able to set the image size settings. Apple RGB is not an available choice here so you will have to convert later or investigate as to whether there is a way to add that to the options. (I’m guessing there is, but have never attempted).
Mac vs. PC
Mac’s have lighter screens than PC’s. This means your work will be lighter on a Mac than a PC. Thus, for a Mac, you’ll have to do more saturation and have more contrast (contrast is what you create with toning.) I would hazard to say the majority of people in this industry use Mac’s. The overwhelming majority of the users in the world, however, use PC’s. I’ve never seen anyone do cross platform testing with their videos or photos. I guess the question is, are you creating for the general public, or the multimedia/photographic community?
Another photo that I would like to share
The below was the first example I worked on. To be fair, the Canon 5d MKII, in good light, has incredible tone and saturation, especially coupled with a polarizing filter, which means this made a poor example to try to explain a fault of tone and saturation. I would still do all of the steps noted, but to a novice, it would be hard to understand why. This was taken on the now closed train route between Mendoza, Argentina and Los Andes, Chile. Nacho and I played a lot of pass the camera that day, so neither of us can say definitively who took it. It is undeniably beautiful.
Final Note – Expect More
There will be a part two to this post in the coming weeks. It will feature video color correcting screen shots from Final Cut, save for web and other instructional elements.
Here is a link to a very long discussion talking about tonal ranges with lots of graphs and charts comparing film to the now ancient 10D (my first camera.) It makes me feel guilty for crushing blacks, but Ansel Adams made huge prints for galleries and walls in homes, not the World Wide Web.