A Case Study

Before we start I want to show you some images. You can also click on these links to read definitions on very important terms: original, average & version.

Let’s start by reading and analyzing the original. What do you think about it? I think it is good original(I cherry picked something easy for this page). The plate is not neutral could be brighter, whiter. The dessert shows much detail, and at the same time is quite color. Will it be necessary to choose between these two?


An image that has not been edited, manipulated or altered in any way. In the Workshop usually is in RAW format, but sometimes also JPG serves a purpose.


The mathematical average of all versions color-corrected from the Panel. It has a very high learning value, especially for color and textures (like noise).


Sometimes I present my own version, other times we already have versions available. For difficult or professional images I look on the web for examples.

Before We Start

Color correction and post-production are disciplines based on two very different sets of rules, at the same time. “Correct” and “beautiful” are two very different goals, as are the paths to achieve them. Finally, the professional field has very specific needs and requires different workflows. Photojournalism, for example, has a rigid ethical code that needs to be respected, whereas marketing is chasing different results, in very different ways.

Objective Correct

Easy: the image above shows you at the same time the original on the left, and on the right a corrected version. It is acceptable that someone may prefer the aesthetics of the image on the left, but the one on the right is just correct. Rocks are not blue anymore, for example. We can be sure measuring the greys that were slightly green in the original, and are now neutral. Also saturation, contrast and brightness are all well balanced.

Objective & Subjective

Let’s try to differentiate our readings, our evaluations. One, objective, almost numerical, that weights and measures if a result is correct. And the second, more volatile, deeply linked to aesthetic (and thus liable of several interpretations, cultural differences and personal tastes) in where we voluntarily sacrifice one or more correct elements to achieve a results that is more beautiful to us. Let’s see two examples.

Subjective Aesthetics

Difficult: two different versions compared. Now one is not unmistakably wrong. We have two acceptable results. On the left we have more chromatic variation, more details more contrast. But the colorist on the right chose to impose a precise chromatic cast, it looks almost a duotone. A polarising result that will never please everyone, if not for very precise applications.

Back To Our Example

The Original

Raw & Jpg  Reading & analysis

Every good workflow begins with a quick but comprehensive analysis of an image best elements and faults. It can be also important to define the elements that this photo contains. For example here we have a dessert, and a plate (it is possible to see more, but it is not important). Now we can ask ourselves: what is wrong in this image? How do we fix it?

The Average Version

First Comparison  Link: how do I make an average?

In my Workshop’s video the first comparison is always with the average. This is almost all the time better than the original, and our dessert is no exception. On the right the color cast on the plate was removed, colors and saturations were improved, details, in both highlights and shadows were improved. But I also think we can do more. Let’s not forget this is an average of works of different colorists, as such mistakes are mellowed but so are the best ideas.

Contrast Or Saturation?

Analysis And Research, Applied  Exploring different paths

Let’s now consider two Panel’s different versions. From now on, it will very difficult, perhaps impossible, to be entirely objective. We can use our observation and analysis skills to look for answers. But we also want to be honest about our aesthetic values. And this is double edged swords, as these depends on our location, culture and education. On the left we can see a correction that focus on contrast, on the right it’s about saturation. The plate is better on the left, in my opinion, but on the right the dessert is more prominent. Still, we yet to ask the most important questions: who is our client? What purpose this image will serve?

Interpretation Or Correction?

Results & Aesthetic  Evaluation and final results

By reading, comparing, and choosing what we think is better in every single image challenge we extend and deepen our culture, our aesthetic education. And by understanding what we like more, we shorten our decision-making times when we work on images. Here, on the left our colorist chose to force a color in the tablecloth that can nicely compliment the dessert. We call these family of retouching interpretation, more personal, and risky, approaches than corrections like the one on the right, still the best version of this original.