Color and Photography

Color in photography was once very popular through the use of slide film, which was the most vivid for rendering amazing color.  Color photographs are those which have not been overly exposed in the camera or in the photo editing software.  Digital photography has simplified and complicated the use of color.  How has color been both simplified and complicated through digital photography?  Please read on to learn more on color.

The simplification of color is due to the histogram on many DSLRs can show you the primary colors of light (Red, Green, and Blue, or RGB) with their corresponding exposures.  If the histogram doesn’t resemble a gentle rolling mountain in the middle of your LCD viewscreen on the camera, then the colors are either overexposed or underexposed.  This can be corrected by making adjustments to the camera settings (either shutter speed, ISO, or aperature).

The complication of color stems from the misuse or misunderstanding of saturation in photo editing software programs.  Most photo software programs allow you to adjust the saturation of color.  Unfortunately, most new digital photographers believe that more saturation is better for the overall image.  This results in colors being too vivid, leading to the incorrect exposure and overprocessing of the image and the loss of shadows and overly strong highlights.  (Shadows and highlights will be discussed in a seperate blog entry.)

Be careful that your choice of background color does not blend into or overwhelm your subject. For example, a dark haired model and a dark background could cause you difficulty and the loss of the details in the models hair.  If your background is too colorful you may need to change the background or blur it.

What makes up a quality color photograph?  That will depend upon your subject of course. Though there are specific suggestions you will need to keep in mind; if doing portraits keep the background a solid neutral color (white, black, or grey are common), if shooting wildlife be aware of your background colors (or use 2.8-5.6 to blur the background), and finally be careful using multi-colored objects in a still life photograph (as they could be distracting and confuse the viewer’s eye).

Remember that the primary colors often combine to help make other colors.  If you over expose or oversaturate the primary colors it will also impact the other colors in your photograph.  It is better to slowly add saturation and take a look at the histogram in your photo editing software program.  Be sure you do not save the file until you are satisfied with the results. Always keep the original file intact and unchanged (in case you change your mind, lose the altered file,  or decide to do more creative adjustments with color).

An example of oversaturation of an image. While this may work for a creative use, traditional buyers of flower photography may find the image unsatisfactory.

About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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