I've been blogging a lot about my personal life recently, and while it's a great outlet to get my thoughts off my chest, I still have the urge to help other photographers by writing about what I've learned over the years. I've been a photographer here in Los Angeles for over 3 years now, and as you can imagine, I've done my fair share of experimenting.
That being said, one of the questions I get asked the most is how I came up with my own style. A lot of photographers come to me saying they know the basics of photography, and they're good at capturing a great photo, they just get stuck when it comes to editing and finding their own unique style.
To be completely honest, I've been in that same boat! I had the right equipment, and even more importantly, I had the right knowledge to be able to capture an extremely good photo, but I just didn't know how to make my photos stand out from the crowd. We live in a generation where literally everyone is a photographer, and are able to capture breathtaking images from their cell phone. While this is an amazing era to live in, it makes it extremely hard for people with photography as their passion to actually be inspired to create something different. Photos are constantly thrown in our faces on Instagram, and it's easy to think that you'll never be as good as that photographer, and it's discouraging.
The hardest part about this situation is that you want to be able to have your own style, but don't really know where to start when it comes to editing. Even if we (photographers) aren't aware of it, we have this urge to be remembered through our work, and a part of that stems from people being able to recognize our own unique style. We want people to look at a photo and automatically know that we took it, but that's not as easy as it sounds.
Luckily, I was able to find a rather simple solution to this! After doing some research on color theory, I came to the realization that the way you use color in your photos directly translates to your own unique style, as long as you remain consistent. The secret here actually isn't color theory itself, but actually, the magic of split toning. Well, color theory and split toning kind of go hand in hand, because you need to know which colors work well together in order to split tone in a way that's appealing to the eye.
Let's take a step back. What exactly is color theory, and what exactly is split toning? Well, color theory basically tells you how colors work together, and which colors go well together to make something appealing to the eye. This is just the absolute basics of color theory, as it goes much deeper than that, but for this explanation, we'll stick with that simple definition. Split toning on the other hand, is the colors that you choose to tint both the highlights, and the shadows in an image, highlights being the bright sections of the image, and shadows being the dark sections in the image.
A lot of people don't know that they can do this, and it's actually one of the staple pieces to my editing process. The changes can be very subtle, but they're extremely noticeable, and this can be a game changer when it comes to creating your own style, and you want to know the best part? You can use this technique on ANY photo!
Have you ever found an Instagram profile randomly, and when you scroll through their feed, everything looks consistent? Whether their whole feed look pink or blue or yellow, everything just seems to fit together? Sometimes they take portraits, sometimes they take landscapes, and no matter what it is, it all flows? This is the magic of split toning, and it's something that I highly recommend if you're looking to be more consistent with your work. Just take a look at some of the profiles below, and I'll even throw mine in there for shits and giggles.
As you can see, split toning really helps with consistency when it comes to editing, and it can really define your own personal style. The only thing about split toning is that you need a little background on color theory to see which colors would work well together, and then decide which color you want in the highlights, and which color you want in the shadows. For example, a popular color combination is yellow and blue, however, having the yellow in the highlights and blue in the shadows would look different from having blue in the highlights and yellow in the shadows. You also have to decide which hue of blue you'd want, as well as the hue of yellow, and how intense you want them to appear in the image.
To give you an example on how this looks in Lightroom, let's take my last portrait and mess around with the split toning using the colors blue and yellow. Here is the photo with no split toning:
Then, you'll want to go over to the Split Toning tab in Lightroom, and choose which hue of blue and which hue of yellow you want to use. For this example, I'll put blue in the shadows and yellow in the highlights. Hue is basically which shade of blue/yellow you want to use, and saturation is how intense you want that shade to appear. Here are the setting I'm using for this example:
You can already see how split toning completely changes the mood of the photo! Now I'm going to put blue in the highlights and yellow in the shadows to show you how different the image will look:
Obviously there are tons of different color and hue combinations you can use for this technique, but this is just one extremely useful tool that can really help you create your own style!
Until next time,