As a retoucher or photographer, it’s safe to say color is vastly important and we can all start there as our commonality.
Likewise, it’s important that we discuss just how Infinite Color Panel compares to color grading in the raw processing stage. Along the way, we’ll discover just how complimentary both are together, and how they also differ on their own.
Being that I truly value and am inspired by our amazing community, I wanted to give them an opportunity to answer as well. This will give a great perspective into what everyone thinks as to paint a picture that is more open than writing the article through my own words.
My own personal preference is using Capture One as my raw processor. The reason is because they have profiles developed for each specific camera on the market that is compatible with the program. The results produce a solid rendition of the raw file out of the box. But no matter what you use, this will all be relatable.
A non-destructive workflow allows for the pairing of beautifully processed files with detailed color grading for a superior result.
In actuality, my first reason insists on the inclusion of both in the process for the best overall look. Since the processor is there to set a great “base look”, ICP can be used to push colors in a way that can be modified. Since adjustment layers have the ability to be changed at any time, having them in layers at the end of your retouching workflow is the most non-destructive process. So you won’t have any regret tomorrow or 5 years from now in case your color vision has changed or becomes refined over time.
The difference is that you (or your customer) can change their mind. Doing the grading in Photoshop is non destructive, while RAW is destructive. RAW is closer to the source, so if you do really crazy grading with super strong saturated colors, then I would favour doing it in RAW destructively. For all other images, and especially if you work in 16-bit, there is no difference in quality between the two and as such I prefer doing my grading non-destructively.
Additionally, I have seen some people who apply grading in RAW using camera profiles. This is very bad since it removes the original color translation that every camera needs for the images to look good. This color translation is the whole purpose of a good raw-converter, and it is the main reason that Capture One is favoured among professionals. Simply because the camera profiles they have created are just that good. Meaning, since you can only use ONE profile, then if you apply grading this way you are throwing away the original mapping.- Conny Wallstrom
To me a great advantage that ICP has over toning in the raw editors is that it makes use of non-destructive adjustment layers to create the toning. The use of adjustment layers also allows for complete control and customization of each individual adjustment made by ICP, no matter what point of the process of finishing the photo you’re at. - Dan Ostergren
Manual Processing vs Intelligent Automation - Quality and Speed
The biggest advantage of the Infinite Color Panel over CO/LR is that it's an intelligent automated process. In CO/LR you are manually adjusting each slider and sometimes are not sure what the results will be. ICP creates a harmonious color grading that would be difficult to achieve manually. It's also so quick to run through many (infinite?) different color schemes that would take up an enormous amount of time manually. - Jay Coy
The layers in the panel are specifically designed to work together to be universally favorable. It was designed by studying the layers within the images that were submitted to high end editorials. I would dissect the adjustment layers and figure out the parameters that each adjustment layer should have. We tweaked them for months before coming to the right formula.
Typically speed is a huge factor with processing you have to also consider. If you have the time and knowledge to manually create intricate looks yourself, that is wonderful. The panel provides you to be the most efficient with your time in crafting multiple looks instantly. Better yet, after you develop something you like, you can then save it so you get something that is yours, time and time again.
Inspiring Creativity For Any Level - Suggestions In Color
I would say it allows people with little to no experience in color grading jump right in and take their creativity to the next level. I also feel like the tool encourages you to play when maybe you wouldn't because you weren't even sure where to begin. It makes creating more fun and less time consuming by popping in these powerful layers for you as if to say, here's a pallet of amazing color, go forth and create! - Sarah Rocca Vento
Aside from the intelligent coding (thanks to coding master Conny Walstrom), it provides a sense of direction when you may not know where to push the colors in the raw processor. If you already have an idea of where to go, then at least the panel can also provide you with alternative ideas on where else it could go. Why limit yourself to just one direction? I’ve been surprised multiple times by the panel in training myself in seeing how else the colors could be pushed.
The biggest benefit for me, as someone who has no particular direction is the fortunate opportunity of being presented with a host of color combinations and being able to pick any one I want, or keep all of them. It gives me a palette of colors where I can tweak anything I want manually and build on them. I can also add in additional adjustment layers to complete the process.
Usually I have an idea where I want to go with the colour but sometimes I'll have an image where I don't have a clue. A few rounds of ICP and I'll quickly realise whether I want it warm or cool, bring up certain colours in shadows or highlights and get pretty close to where I want to be. Then I can make further fine tuning adjustments. I think it would be impossible to play with different colour ideas manually in ACR or LR without knowing in advance what you want. ICP takes you to new colour-lands - Alex Baker
Advanced Masking Capabilities
You can mask the layers individually, or as a group using your channels, or even calculations. This makes a smart system even smarter. - Ben Heath
This is an important distinction. What I love about Capture One is the ability to use layers and masks. I use them all the time! Knowing that I have this capacity in Photoshop gives me a familiar workflow in the color grading process. It also takes it to another level combining channel masks and even calculations if that’s your jam.
Learning through osmosis
As a side bonus (a really great bonus), studying the color possibilities Infinite Color provides in each image will also serve as a tool to learn what you like and don’t like! I can tell you that just in the short few months of using the panel, I’ve surprised myself after seeing what direction my images have gone in. If you find that you naturally have a preference in certain directions, the panel will really give you ideas that you might not have thought of on your own.
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If you haven't tried the panel yet, get started here: https://www.infinitecolorpanel.com