Colour is huge in picture editing because it sets the mood and atmosphere. It is one of your tools to guide the audiences thoughts and perception of your image, grid post, website and can even hint at your values and mission for your business. Interesting colour edits will certainly give you an edge and make you look more professional. What are you communicating through the colour and tones of your imagery?

It is so easy to look at someone else’s picture in ore of its beauty and believe those colours were there in real life and that’s how the picture was taken, but it wasn’t, it was put in after, enhanced, simplified, played with. So, when you sit in front of one of your pictures to edit, it’s hard to know where to start and what to go for. 

You can develop your sense of colour before you even sit down to edit. The answer is not in the technology but in observation. Even if you are taught all the technical aspects of editing colour, it can still be difficult to make colour decisions when editing. You need to train the eye a little alongside the editing.

How do we get a head start on understanding what we want our image to look like?

Collect others images. Make yourself a board in Pinterest for this purpose. Collect very different colour systems, atmospheres and styles.

Identify the one key colour, the main colour. The predominant tone?

Think of it as a Hot & Cold colour. What is the hot colour and what is the cold colour?

What is the Saturation of the colour. Have they taken colour out in areas, desaturated? Are some colours very saturated and bright? are some tones so muted they are almost grey?

Is there high contrast in the image? Bright lights and very black blacks? Or are the Blacks lightened giving a softer look? 

There are a few main trends in picture editing. Try to understand what they are when you see them used. Look at your collection of images and see if you can detect these colour systems. Quiz yourself on it. 

Teal & Orange

Teal & Orange is a very probably the most popular look in photo edits online at the moment. It can be very subtle or quite saturated. I like to think of it as a warm tone and a cool tone. The Orange can be bright or very pale pastel peach colour. The Teal and be a very greeny blue or a very cool almost cyan colour. There are many variations on this look. Wearing particular colours enhances this look. Blue denim works well and if you are wearing something orange or brown.

Red & Green

Red & Green is very close to Teal & Orange on the colour wheel. The red is usually looks like a darker orange tone and the green can be a very deep rich green or a very light grey green. Think of this as a warmer tone with lots of green because there are a lot of red variants. Browns come into this look also. Brown is a muddy red. I would class pinks under this Red & Green look also as pink is red with a little more white. I’d say Green was the base colour in this look with a warmer tone to compliment it.

Soften the Blacks

Soften the Blacks and take out some of the contrast. This flattens the image a little and gives a lovely soft effect and can bring out some rich colours with a little more sophistication. It can also make imagery look slightly aged and if you put some other techniques with it, you would get a vintage look. 


Golden is about the light and summer. Golden images, sun rays, spilt light, even areas bleached out. This lends it self well to photographs taken in the late afternoon and a lot can be done in camera for this look but a lot can also be pushed and enhanced afer in the edit also. You can sometimes get a Blue and Golden look but I don’t see this around so much now. Blue and Gold works well but Golden has definitely taken over. As long as it looks golden and sun bathed then anything else goes.

The Creative Process

Try to go with what the picture wants as well as what you want. If you don’t have blues in that picture, it will be hard to push it to Teal and Orange. It is good to know what you like and what to aim for and this is the first step, but sometimes you just need to get that image into Photoshop to see what you can get out of it. Play with it and experiment. See where the picture wants to go. What looks good as you edit. I recommend using the curves adjustment layer to play around with the colour. This is always my first option when messing about with colour.

Your Brand

You may be using imagery for a small business or as a creative or artist. Imagery is powerful and will always hold meaning and message no matter what the purpose is. The clarity of your message is what you are playing with. If you are a small buisiness, how do you begin to link up your brand to your visuals? You may need to think about it with more intention and direction and as you begin to work with images, with intuition also.

Do you know what your core values are in your business because your visuals need to represent this? How can the tone of the imagery communicate your ideals, aims, style? What is the atmosphere you are trying to create? Do you want to come across as light, breezy and easy going? Or quirky, chatty and fun OR as a more formal expert in your field? What are your visuals communicating to your audience? How can you direct these visuals and communicate with greater clarity to your audience.

Colour Trends in Photo Editing. A few pictures showing the Golden colour trend.

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