Creating Mood With White Balance

 In Tips + Tricks

One of my favorite subjects photographed during the Los Angeles workshop was this white sculpture titled Ulysses. I know, you’re not seeing white, lol. For some reason I routinely find myself coming back to this particular shade of blue in my images. It’s completely contrived and anything but representing reality. And, quite honestly, one of the best things about creating abstracts. Even Michael asked me how I was getting this shade of blue in my images. Shocking, given of the two of us he’s far more adept at anything related to post-processing, and it really is a very simple method. Below I’ll break down the process, starting with the RAW file:

ulysses, los angeles

You can see that it’s quite underexposed but that soft blue shade is in the sky. Probably what triggered the idea, to begin with. I just really like that tone. Because I like to keep my post-processing as easy as possible, I wanted to correct the exposure universally instead of getting into all sorts of layer masks. This means I’ll be losing any color in the sky, which is fine with me. It creates this blank canvas and negative space for the shape of this sculpture to standout.

The first step was to increase my exposure quite a bit. Which was done by simply moving the exposure slider in Lightroom to the right (about +1.50). I also pulled back the highlights a bit by moving the highlight slider to the left (about -60). To further increase the exposure I moved the shadow slider to the right (a lot, in fact, +100).

Next, I started playing with the White Balance presets. When I want to go blue I usually start with Tungsten. This is usually too blue so I move the temperature slider to the right, making it a bit warmer (I ended with a WB temperature of 4783, tint 0).

Then for cleanup, there actually wasn’t too much on this particular image, but I prefer to do this in Photoshop. As we’ve shown in our post-workshop, post-processing sessions, I used a mix of the healing brush and clone tools to get rid of dirt and other imperfections.

Continuing to look at the shapes a little more closely, I began feeling like the composition was too messy, just too much going on for my taste. So I decided to crop it square and rotate it. Again, just a preference and that orientation felt more balanced to me. Another aspect of abstracts that I like; sometimes a simple rotation and/or vertical or horizontal flip of the image can make it feel more complete. Or turn something that you might toss aside into something you love.

And with all that, the completed image:

ulysses, los angeles

To compare, because of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, I had to convert to black and white as well. I like both, but the blue gives it a little something extra. Obviously, this is a personal preference and just another tool you can use to create images to your tastes.

ulysses, los angeles

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