Since around October (after the day the colours fell) I’ve been shooting almost exclusively in black and white.
Aside from there being less colour around to capture, I realised again that shooting in b/w makes it easier to focus on the core aspects of photography – light and shadow, composition, geometry, texture. Regular readers will know I like to keep things simple.
That said, I am still interested in finding ways of making colour photos that I like (even during my predominantly b/w season), and with as close to zero processing as possible.
After a few years of on and off experimenting, essentially for me there are three types of colour I enjoy.
First, natural colour – as close as possible to what my eyes saw in reality. This is most preferable when the original photo was made in very good light, so the colours were at their most vivid, yet still as nature intended, not overly saturated.
My photos taken with my Pentax DSLRs like the K10D are largely untouched except exporting to JPEG in LightRoom.
What I’d like to look at in this post a little more is the other two types of colour image I enjoy and have been “developing”.
When the natural light is than ideal, which is about 90% of the days between November and March where I am, this is a way of adding a little more character and warmth to images that would otherwise look flat and lifeless.
Here are a couple of examples, shot with my Ricoh GX100, and showing the original straight out of camera (9MP Fine JPEG) image first, then a “Warm Colour” version, processed in Hipstamatic.
I’ve been using this in very similar conditions to the Warm Colour, when natural light (or at least sunshine) is lacking and the colours seem uninspiring.
This pallette I see almost as halfway between colour and b/w. There’s been a trend in movies and tv shows in recent years to use very muted (and mostly green and grey) palettes and I guess these have been something of an influence here.
Here again are two examples with the same original image as above, then a Muted Colour version processed in Hipstamatic.
How do I choose which colour palette to use?
I really like both the Warm and Muted processes here. My choice of which to use for any one photo (or batch of photos) I think comes down to two factors.
First, the mood I was in when making the images.
The more subdued the mood, the more subdued the colours, so the final processed photographs most accurately reflect the images I have in my head (ie my memory) of the photowalk.
If I was in a brighter mood, then the colours I want the photographs to hold are brighter and warmer too.
Second, the subject matter, and the amount of colour that was actually present.
If there was a scene with lots of colours, even if the light was muted, I’m more likely to use the Warm Colour processing to enhance that range of colours.
If the original scene had only very few colours, as well as subdued light, then the Muted Colour processing seems a better fit.
Of course none of this is an exact science, and it’s all my personal preferences. Which may well evolve over time.
What do you look for in your colour photos?
How do you decided which colour film or digital settings to use before shooting?
What influences the colour processing you use afterwards?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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