There are several ways to color grade your photos, and plenty of different looks you can create. In this video, photographer Travis Transient will show you a simple and really versatile ways to do it – using a Gradient Map layer. All it takes is a single adjustment layer, so you can grade the images fast and achieve plenty of different looks.
Of course, start by opening the photo you want to adjust, and then add a new adjustment layer “Gradient Maps.” When you double-click on it, you can adjust it in a variety of ways.
You can select one of the premade presets, and this is what Travis chose for the first example:
Of course, it looks too extreme, but you can edit the colors. You can click on the orange pin and change the color to make it closer to the skin tone. You can also edit the purple and make it darker. Additionally, you can reduce the layer opacity to tone down the effect. Here’s Travis’ before and after with the first photo:
When you open the Gradient Map layer editor, you can click on the cog within presets, and choose another set. There’s a preset collection named “Photographic Toning,” which grades the image but saves skin tones. Again, you can edit the color of the pins, and even add or remove them:
Since the preset Travis used here desaturated the photo a bit, he cranked up the vibrance in addition to grading, and here’s the before and after:
In addition to changing the colors and opacity of the adjustment layer, you can also affect the final look by changing the blending mode. Set it to Soft Light to keep the midtones transparent, but add color to darks and lights.
I also played with Gradient Map and added some quick changes to some stock photos I downloaded. So, here are a couple of different looks from me too:
Travis shares a bonus tip – you can apply these color maps to video as well. You’ll need to create a LUT: go to File > Export > Color Lookup Tables, press ”Ok” and choose to a folder to save the LUT. When you open a footage in Premiere Pro, you can apply the LUT you just saved and quickly color grade the video.
Color grading is a powerful addition to the look of your images. It adds to the message you’re sending and also affects the viewers’ emotions. Other than using Gradient Map adjustment layer, you can also go with luminosity masks, curves, solid color adjustment layer… Or you can combine two or more adjustment layers to refine the grading. But, for some quick fixes with plenty of possible outcomes, I think Gradient Map will do the trick.