Many camera websites and blogs rave electric about the natural colour rending of a camera, lens or film, as if it’s the holy grail of colour photography. But is it?
I’ll admit there are times when I’ve sought a look and a colour palette that has seemed natural, yet also somehow enhanced what I saw with my naked eyes.
Much of the flower photography I’ve captured with my Pentax K10D falls into this category. Its CCD sensor combined with Takumar or Pentax-A lenses gives more saturated yet still relatively natural colours. Especially in good light.
But I often found that when I was shooting with this set up, my focus was almost entirely on capturing the colour of a certain flower, rather than thinking about whether it was an interesting composition overall.
I was like an amateur botanist, gathering or documenting colours, rather than making photographs that stand alone, regardless of colour.
With film, I experimented numerous times to specifically explore colours that are shifted from “reality” in some way.
Whether that was by making and shooting my own redscale film –
Or deliberately forced light leaks (nothing sophisticated, just popping open the back of the camera a fraction every couple of frames) –
Or cross processing (having slide film processed as colour negative C41 film) –
And now I’ve extended this experimentation to digital photography, either adjusting settings in camera –
Or with apps like Hipstamatic or Snapseed afterwards –
So whilst I do enjoy those colours my K10D gives pretty much straight out of camera, even they aren’t a perfect rendition of the natural colours of the scene.
I see photography as an opportunity and privilege to do more than “just” capturing reality.
The final photograph is a version, a unique personal interpretation, of the reality.
But we can use our creativity to alter the colours, and influence how we want the image to be seen and interpreted by others.
Also, in the last nine months I would estimate that 95% of my photographs have been b/w anyway, which be definition is a major modification of the natural colour present in the original scene we saw with our bare eyes.
The photograph we make is not the scene itself, it’s not the reality. It’s an object, an artefact in itself, and when we get it right, and have a captive, appreciative audience, it might even been called art.
So who wants natural colours anyway?
What are your thoughts around natural colours? How much do you seek to recreate them in your photographs, or how much do you deliberately subvert them?
Please share your thoughts and experiences with us below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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