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The demystification of... Vogue colour?

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  #1  
Old 12-15-2011, 06:50 AM
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oneredpanther oneredpanther is offline
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The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Hi guys,

Let me share with you my principal, number one, sleepless-night inducing, thorn-in-my-side, aching, frustrating retouching problem.

Colour.

Vogue colour.

It's my last bastion between happiness and self-loathing, if you will. What I'm talking about is The Look. The look that magazines like Vogue have, and everyone else's photos do not.

You know what I mean. It's not about lighting (we all know how to light) and it's not about dodge and burn (we all know how to do that) - there is something going on with the colour in these magazines that defies my explanation.

Have a look here, here, here, here or here for example. Heck, do a google image search for vogue italia and look at the colours.

What is this? I cannot seem to logically explain it. I'm not even necessarily talking about individual images. Wouldn't you agree that there is something common between them in colour grading, something separate from your everyday retouching skillset that is purely colour?

It's not just your common yellows-in-highlights/blues-in-shadows split toning trick either, but I can't put my finger on it. Everything has some kind of sheen, as if you can tell it's been printed on glossy paper. I find this notion ridiculous because pixels are pixels, and anything that looks a certain way after having been scanned-in, can necessarily be made to look that way beforehand. It's all just pixels. after all.

In my imaginary perfect world, there is some precious nugget of colour grading information that I'm missing. Something universal that explains what the heck is going on here, because I just cannot seem to replicate this look or feel in post, and I've been photoshopping for 12 years.

Before you leap in with comments like "oh, that one is just a warm white balance" or "oh, that one is just some cross processed sky", step back and look, feel... think about the examples. There is something self-similar between them all...

What is it?

Panth
www.barringtonrussell.com
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  #2  
Old 12-15-2011, 01:02 PM
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John Wheeler John Wheeler is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Hi oneredpanther,

I did some basic color analysis of the images and saw some consistencies.

I am not so sure you can just separate out just colour to demystify Vogue images. Not all Vogue images have the exact same characteristics.

Yet since you asked, here is what I have found from my analysis of the images you provided from a color standpoint.

I do not know "the" answer yet here is some basic analysis of the luminosity, color, and saturation. Here is what I noticed overall.

1) Hues, Saturation, and Luminosity are in quantum chunks. Groupings of Luminosity, groupings of Saturation, groupings of Hue

1) Hues in the image are very limited and relative narrow in Hue degrees with coordination of Hues across many elements in the scene (my guess is some from setup and some from post processing)

2) Saturations come in groupings as well.

The above tow items indicate very few colors in use and a lot of color coordination.

3) Many yet not all images are quite low in saturation. For the images that do have some saturation, it is in contrast with a lot of lower saturation parts of the image.

Note: Definition of saturation has many definitions. I am referring to Max(R,G,B) - Min (R,G,B) being relatively small.

Even the luminosity seems to come in groupings.

With luminosity, hue, and saturation all coming in groupings, it seems to make it easy on the eye/brain and a pleasing effect.

Well, that's a lot of guessing yet based on some basic analysis of the images.

Here are some basic analysis of 3 images you linked. In each panel it goes from:
a)Original
b) Luminosity (many show just a little color added to this luminosity)
c) Saturation Level (as defined above - this is just a gray level representation)
d) Pure Hue with low saturation masked out. Note that the Hues are quite limited and smooth across the image.

Hope these give some clues

Low Sat Example
mariano_vivanco4_panel_SFW.jpg

Reasonably Low Sat
valentina_zelyaeva3_panel_SFW.jpg

Slightly higher Sat example
rosie_huntington_whiteley2_panel_SFW.jpg

Couple high Sat areas with others quite low Sat
doble5_panel_SFW.jpg

It was quite interesting to analyze. Most images that I have analyzed has this quantization of Hues, Sat, and Luminosity nor the uniformity of all three even when viewed separately.

This may have something to do with "The Look", however this does not tell you what retouching steps to achieve that look. I have some ideas yet those are not fully baked. So, this may not help with all of your mentioned symptoms:
Quote:
Let me share with you my principal, number one, sleepless-night inducing, thorn-in-my-side, aching, frustrating retouching problem.
If it does not, I might suggest 1/2 kilo of solid chocolate. It solves a lot of problems. Happy Holiday Season
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  #3  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:44 PM
eraanexact eraanexact is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Color is a tricky thing. In my experience, an understanding of color is one of the most difficult skills for a retoucher to develop, and ironically, one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to make a good image into an extraordinary one.

I've learned that "S" curves are the best way to make an image come to life. I've also learned that two points per curve is really the maximum it should be pushed.

scurve.jpg

That's a fairly typical example of an S curve. The positions of the points and the severity of the "S" will vary between each image, of course. The overall color can then be further adjusted by manipulating each individual channel's curve to, for example, make the darks cooler and the highlights warmer, or vice versa.
There are many ways to affect the color, but I think that starting on the basis of a good S curve will make all the other adjustments that much easier.

All that being said, color alone isn't what makes the "Vogue" image pop. It's also the styling, the model, and of course, the lighting...along with a little post production that make those images what they are. If the photographer didn't know how to light as well, if the clothes were standard fare, and if the model does not know how to pose, then even with the Vogue color treatment, it won't be as powerful of an image. Just sayin.
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Old 12-15-2011, 10:50 PM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

What's with the water color in this one (hard line on right)? It's like someone screwed up a mask.

http://imagesgonerogue.com/images/20..._whiteley3.jpg

I'd assume most colors in these images are not there by accident.

John did a nice job revealing how limited the pallet is in most shots.
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Old 12-16-2011, 12:37 AM
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John Wheeler John Wheeler is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flashtones View Post
What's with the water color in this one (hard line on right)? It's like someone screwed up a mask......
John did a nice job revealing how limited the pallet is in most shots.
Thanks for the comment and good catch on the image. I had not even scrolled down that far. Sure looks like a masking error yet a real blooper by whomever let that one through no matter the cause/source.
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Old 12-16-2011, 11:18 AM
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

John,

I'm very interested in your overall analysis and think it's something worth taking further. What do you mean by the terms "groupings" and "chunks". Could you show that diagramatically?

ps so chocolate is your secret - i wondered where you got all your energy from.

AK
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Old 12-16-2011, 02:14 PM
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John Wheeler John Wheeler is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AKMac View Post
Could you show that diagramatically? ...AK
Partially. I do not have a large database for comparison. Just my own experience. Some of this can be seen by looking at the histograms of the various image decompositions

Here is the original image and the RGB histogram. Nothing too unusual:

Original-Histogram.jpg

Breaking out the Luminosity here is the histogram. Notice that a good amount of Luminosity is grouped in two peaks:

Luminance-Histogram.jpg

Breaking out just the Saturation the histogram shows three distinct groupings. The two peaks on the right is the Saturation of the two colored coats. The tight tall peaks indicate very high amount of uniformity in Saturation:

Saturation-Histogram.jpg

The last image is a Hue map while suppressing low saturation parts of the image. I have not created the Action to turn the Hue map into a grayscale equivalent (turn 0 to 360 color degrees into 0-255 grayscale) that would then show the groupings. Your eyeball can see that the pallet of colors is quite limited however even without the histogram:

Hue-no-Histogram.jpg

These are characteristics that I just noticed with the sample images. It just struck me as interesting that this occurred across Luminosity, Saturation, and Hue. It made me think that just maybe this was part of "The Look."
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Old 12-16-2011, 04:35 PM
kav kav is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

The histograms won't totally help in reverse engineering something like this. It's just a bad idea as they're likely to add to the confusion given their global nature.

When you look at the image, you want to attempt to pick out global characteristics from localized ones. There may be a few global adjustments in there, but quite a lot of it is localized. Just go from largest details to smallest. Some light curves to get a general flow to some of the midtones. Make sure your starting exposure isn't clipping highlights or overly saturating skin, and then then make some tweaks to get the color in that direction, not exactly that. Sometimes independent curve adjustments will help in this regard if something has a distinct cast in its overall highlights or shadows.

Next I'd try to get the overall lighting of the piece to flow in a similar manner. By this I mean everything from the density of various background elements to the way light hits eyes and cheeks.

Now move in, start to balance out the color of the skin locally. Do the lips separately. Do the eyes separately on color/lighting. Do the water separately. Do the sky as its own element.

It's just breaking stuff down. Trying to do too much at once is where it becomes a problem. Just start with larger details and move in to refine it without overdoing the contrast or color adjustments.

Edit: just remember if you process the skin out too bright, you'll never get that look. Unless the highlights are way out there, I'd balance your processing exposure to where the highlights can retain detail.

Edit Edit: Keep printed copies nearby when you're working on something. If you're trying to match a look, you need reference material. No one tries to match something without that, and you need to refer to it while you're working.

Last edited by kav; 12-16-2011 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 12-17-2011, 06:33 AM
insmac insmac is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

kav mentioned something I had in mind earlier when reading this thread. Let's call it 'the deep look' that you may observe when looking through all these google images thumbs. Apart from some deliberately harsh looking grayscale shots, Meisel tends to retain a lot of detail in his images, including skin areas and background set designs. I can think one of his photoshoots, studio set, dim lighting, seemingly from kinoflo banks or something closely related. The mentioned session appeared through syndication (trunkarchive or so) in one of polish magazines. Because of poor prepress and colour management images were looking dull and almost flat, in a direct opposition to the very first appearance in vogue some time earlier.

Paper does not have any backlight nor shining. That way you may have a feeling that these images look deep, preserve a lot of detail and are - in a way - three-dimensional. GrafiLite provides calibrated desktop lamps - usually their sets include a kind of stand where you can put a magazine for colour reference no matter how innacurate is your room lighting.

Last edited by insmac; 12-17-2011 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 12-17-2011, 08:21 AM
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

I was going to ask whether one of the reasons for the similarity of look was to do with physical paper and ink, and whether the look of the digital imagery was influenced by that.
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Old 12-17-2011, 08:50 AM
insmac insmac is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Also keep in mind vast part of these images is scanned on cheap flatbeds, lacking shadows and vibrance.
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Old 12-17-2011, 08:58 PM
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

FYI.
There is no special Vogue look, just high quality photographes taken by some of the top photographers in the world. The real secret is in their printing which is on a par with the finest 'art' books produced today. That & quality paper can make or break a photo. Along with this they also employ some of the worlds beat Art Directors. who have total control over the layout & positioning.
I've had some photos published in Vogue UK and know most of the 'staff photographers of the 60's &70's People like David Baily, Helmut Newton, Etc Etc Etc.
Vogue has a 'look' because its a first class publication, not because of any tricks with the photography.

derek
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Old 12-17-2011, 09:47 PM
kav kav is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

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Originally Posted by crimper View Post

Vogue has a 'look' because its a first class publication, not because of any tricks with the photography.
Every first class publication has its own aesthetic which is driven heavily by the art direction. It's part of the branding. In this case the OP referred heavily to the style of color grading. Some of it can be reverse engineered. If you light it the same way and just as well, then use post to carry it the rest of the way, you can emulate the feel of the lighting and color. Just saying it's only good photography is meaningless when even the photographers that shoot for these publications understand the aesthetic of one publication versus another. My point being that magazines don't all look identical when comparing top tier publications.
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Old 12-19-2011, 04:13 PM
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kav View Post
Every first class publication has its own aesthetic which is driven heavily by the art direction. It's part of the branding. In this case the OP referred heavily to the style of color grading. Some of it can be reverse engineered. If you light it the same way and just as well, then use post to carry it the rest of the way, you can emulate the feel of the lighting and color. Just saying it's only good photography is meaningless when even the photographers that shoot for these publications understand the aesthetic of one publication versus another. My point being that magazines don't all look identical when comparing top tier publications.
As I previously said, they have great Art Directors at Vogue who set the tone of the magazine, That plus great photographers makes the 'look'

derek
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Old 12-20-2011, 11:31 AM
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Andrew B. Andrew B. is offline
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Re: The demystification of... Vogue colour?

Quote:
Originally Posted by oneredpanther View Post
Hi guys,

Let me share with you my principal, number one, sleepless-night inducing, thorn-in-my-side, aching, frustrating retouching problem.

Colour.

Vogue colour.
The basis of this look is the Soft Light blending mode. Soft Light gently increases contrast and saturation.

Copy background, then set new layer to Soft Light. If you want a touch of the dream look, blur the Soft Light layer. If you want more, duplicate the Soft Light layer. If one layer gives you the right contrast but too much saturation, flatten the curve of the base image and start over. And after that you can do whatever tweaking you want.

And FWIW, the bleach look also uses Soft Light. Copy background, desaturate, set to Soft Light.

Of course, all these fashion photos begin good photos, before the affect is applied.
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