Instagram Looks in DaVinci Resolve: Part 1

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

Popular photo-manipulation apps like Instagram have built-in filters to jazz up normally mundane shots. These looks can be created in DaVinci Resolve, giving your video projects a hip, trendy feel.

The more distinct looks are all about tinting sections of the image in unconventional ways. A look is imposed onto the image, giving it a deliberate aesthetic viewpoint that edges it away from normalcy. Contaminating the shadows, mids, or highlights with anomalous color creates highly stylized looks that are very much in vogue right now, thanks to Instagram. In this two-part post, we’ll look into creating several of them.

The Reference Images

We’ll start with reference images of the palette we want and then impose that color scheme on a new photo. This will show us that a wide variety of looks can be dialed into a single shot given an array of reference material. Clients come into sessions wanting to see more extreme types of looks all the time, so it’s important for the colorist to be able to “read” the reference image and adapt it to the project at hand.

Here are the looks we’ll be recreating (images courtesy of Shutterstock):

Reference Image - Girl Texting on the Beach Reference Image - Girl Staring into Distance

The image we’ll be applying our looks to is a favorite of mine, an image of a smiling woman in a car. The image has a nice initial exposure with sharp focus and intact upper and lower registers.

Reference Image - Gril in Car

Let’s perform an initial balance on our image. The blacks are lifted in the original shot, so I’ve brought them down to around zero IRE and raised the mids to compensate for the resulting darkness. The whites in the background seem fine, but they’re a touch off so I’ve white-balanced for exact white. The image’s saturation feels fine, so I don’t affect that at all.

Here’s the initial balance. It’s pretty basic; I haven’t touched the image too much aside from crushing the blacks and compensating for the darkness in the midtones somewhat.

Initial Balance

Approaching the Instagram-Style Grade

Vintage images are often characterized by their lack of color correction. The unprocessed nature of vintage images give them their distinct look, hearkening to a time before color correction and deliberate image filtration were so readily available to mass audiences.

An image search for Polaroid images often yields the presence of color tints in the shadows and highlights. The overall image may have a color cast and natural vignetting could be present. Correcting to lessen these effects is the usual strategy, but in this case, we’re going to enhance them. Don’t worry, the irony that we’re now using color manipulation to get back to an uncorrected look is not lost on me.

We’ll see that a big contributor to our modern Instagram looks are their tinted blacks, and to a lesser degree, tinted whites, and skewed midtones. Black is important because it provides a reference point for the eye. When you remove that reference, a lack of cognitive reconciliation occurs and the image becomes more complex to us from a color standpoint.

Read the full article on PremiumBeat’s blog.

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