Colour is arguably one of the most important aspect of a photograph. It can drastically change the mood and feel of the artwork by altering our senses and perception. In product and still life photography, you need to make sure that the tones are the closest to what they are in the real product. You may also want to help better sell a particular object by provoking emotions in the viewer’s eyes by controlling what the colours are like. Photoshop has a slew of tools used to modify such an aspect of the photo and here are my 3 favourites.
Color Balance Adjustment Layer
Niched in the Adjustments panel, the Color Balance tool creates an adjustment layer with a mask. The tool lets you shift either the shadows, the midtones or the highlights toward Cyan, Magenta or Yellow, or their complementary colours. There is a Preserve Luminosity checkbox that lets you keep a hand on the lightness of the colours and only modify their hue. One more thing I enjoy about this particular tool is the fact that it is really easy to globally adjust the colours (useful for colour correction). Finally, I like that, even if you play with the highlights, the tool does not modify whatsoever the pure white backgrounds of your image.
This tool is probably the most powerful on this list. It enables you to significantly alter each colour group by tweaking the three colour parameters: Hue, Lightness and Saturation. You can also change those settings for the whole image or give a particular feel to you shot with the Colorize checkbox. It is super easy to add pop to a particular colour group using the dragging hand. Just click the little hand icon besides the box where you can choose to colour you want to affect. Then, just head over the area of the photo that you want to add saturation to and drag to the right. Moving your cursor to the left will reduce the saturation of that colour group. This is a godsend that helps you quickly get super accurate and precise colouring. In addition to all this, you can also save presets.
If you only want to tweak the lightness part of a colour but do it in a selective way, I recommend you use the Dodge and Burn technique. Taking it’s name from the olden days film method of increasing (Dodge) and reducing (Burn) the light level of an image’s area, it is one of the most effective ways to add charism and definition to your photo. By darkening shadows and lighting up highlights you can add contrast in a very controllable way. You can also use it in the opposite way to correct your image’s light levels. The built-in Dodge and Burn tools work well enough but I have made freely available a Photoshop action that takes care of setting up an overlay layer filled with 50% neutral grey. You only need to use your black and white brushes to act as the Burn and Dodge tools, respectively. My technique offers more control in a less destructive way. More details and download links are available on my blog.
Those three tools are what I use on almost all of my product and still life photographs. They help me easily control my colours. What tool do you prefer? Why? Let your mind speak in the comments below!