The Art of Balancing Color, Saturation, and Tone

“I just finished the Pro Wildlife Photographer. WOW, I have been doing photography for a while and have purchased many courses but I can tell you the Pro Wildlife Photographer is absolutely the best course I have ever invested in.”

~Richard Sowell

richard sowell testimonial for photillustrator composite photography tutorials

What if the colors of your Composites were so well balanced, people asked you how you captured all that in one photo? How cool would that be?

Balancing the colors, saturations, and tones can be tough, and as you’re well aware, can lead to crappy-looking Composites that frustrate you to no end and leave you thinking you can’t do this.

You’re not alone because I’ve had those feelings too.

However, after creating 70+ Composites using 30+ images each, I’ve gotten really good at balancing the colors, saturations, and tones of my Composites, and now I want to share all these things I’ve learned with you over on Patreon.

CLICK HERE to join me on Patreon.

a composite photograph depicting time in quarantine

As I mentioned, balancing the colors of a Composite that uses 30+ images can be super tricky, which is why I’ve developed a 9 Step Color Balancing Process to make it much easier.

The reason why balancing your colors, saturations, and tones is so hard is because you’ve never been shown the basics.

Understanding how color is dynamic, and how balance is a push-pull effort, and how balance requires layers are the keys to mastering Color Balance and taking a beginner looking Composite to a masterful work of art.

Of course, if specializing in Composites that look like a beginner did them is your thing, then there’s no need to read any further.

However, if taking your Composites to the Next Level is your goal, especially while you have some free time on your hands, then my 9 Steps to Balancing Colors will get you a whole lot faster.

Let’s start by defining Color, Saturation, and Tone as it relates to Composite Photography.

Color: Also known as “Hue”, color is a neurological interpretation of what the eye sees as a result of the light that reflects off an object.

Saturation: The intensity of Color, with the more intense a color appears being more saturated and the less intense a color appears being desaturated.

Tone: In photography it describes the darkness or lightness of a particular area in an image.

Here are a few Before and Afters to see what I’m talking about.

before and after image of composite photography of niko ulsrud

before and after image of composite photography of luka ulsrud

Ok, definitions are easy, right?

Actually Balancing the Colors is a whole lot harder, isn’t it?

Well, it doesn’t have to be when you start to understand HOW Balancing Colors actually works.

So, here are 3 Color Balancing concepts I think will make this a whole lot quicker and easier for you.

Color is Dynamic

The number one problem I see Composite Photographers struggling with is trying to Balance Color using only one color, which means bumping up the yellow or blue and hoping that fixes the color imbalance.

Unfortunately, color isn’t quite that simple.

All colors are dynamic, which means, outside of your color wheel or the color balancing layer in Photoshop, in nature, all colors are composed of more than one color.

Imagine, all colors living somewhere between the primary colors of yellow, red, and blue, which means they’re all made up of more than one color.

If this is true, and it is, now you can start seeing why simply pumping up the yellow a little isn’t achieving the balance your Composite needs.

I’ll go into much greater detail and show you examples in my stuff like this over on my Patreon.

Balance is Push-Pull

Go to your pantry right now and pull out a can of green beans or corn. Either one will work for this demonstration, just pick one.

Now, place your can on the floor and stand on it.

Are you perfectly balanced the second you stand on the can or do you sway from one side to the other, maybe forward and backward, before coming into balance?

Just like you moving back and forth before balancing on your can, Balancing Color in Photoshop requires a little back and forth, or what I call push-pull, before achieving perfect balance.

That’s why simply pumping up the yellow on one layer isn’t enough to Balance the Colors of your Composites.

Balance requires Layers

To achieve true balance requires an additive effort and to demonstrate what the h$ll I’m talking about, let’s pull out that can of beans again.

With the can on the ground, now close your eyes before standing on the can to balance.

If you’re neurologically normal, that should be super tough if not impossible because now you’ve taken the sense of eyesight out of the balancing equation.

Now, try it by covering your ears or spinning before you stand on your can.

Balancing Colors in Photoshop is also an additive process that requires many, many layers to accomplish.

Again, that’s why one color on one layer isn’t enough to achieve Color Balance within your Composites.

Ok, if you’ve read this far, you now have a way better understanding of Color Balance for Composite Photography than 99% of other photographers.

Now, the question is, what are you going to do with it?

Of course, you could choose to try and figure all this out on your own, wasting countless hours searching YouTube for Color Balancing videos that may help (been there), or worse yet, you could do nothing and keep making crappy looking Composites.

Albeit not a good one, but that is an option.

Or, you could, for the price of carryout for you and your spouse, buy my new Color Balancing tutorial so you can take your Composites to the next level with perfectly balanced colors.

CLICK HERE if you want to take your Composites to the Next Level.

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