This is the first post in an occasional series about my experiments in colour photography, which I’ve named “The Colour Quest”.
Let’s start with a little background.
In the 14 years or so I’ve been making photographs with intention, my approach to making colour photographs has passed through many evolutions.
When I began with a humble 3.2MP Sony camera phone around 2005, I did nothing with the colour.
I either used the camera on its default colour mode, or its default black and white mode, then uploaded the results.
I didn’t know there were any other options, and if I’d have heard the phrase “post processing” I’d have probably thought it was what happened at the local Royal Mail sorting office.
Perhaps most importantly, once I’d edited and removed the photos I didn’t like, I was pretty happy with the ones remaining – including the colours.
My first “proper” camera came in 2011, a Nikon Coolpix P300.
It remains the most I’ve ever paid for a camera, and I believe, aside from camera phones, the only digital camera I’ve bought brand new.
I quickly discovered the high contrast mono mode, and used it for perhaps 80% or more of the 7000+ photographs I made over the next seven months.
Colour images rarely got a look in, other than family shots. I just preferred black and white (and still do).
A year or two later, after starting to find my feet with film, colour photography was not just easier again, but almost irresistible.
I just chose the films I like best (top of the pile being Fuji Superia 100) and let my trusty local supermarket lab do the rest.
Again, I was more than happy with the colours of the photographs made with my favoured films.
On the digital front, I was experimenting with a Sony NEX 3N and what now seems a ridiculous number of vintage lenses in perhaps six or eight different mounts.
I never much liked the colour straight out of the NEX (rather cool and lifeless) so resorted to LightRoom and presets, starting with one I liked and tweaking to improve it further.
Sometimes these were subtle.
Other times the colour treatments seemed more radical.
Or trying to emulate some of the images I’d made with film.
The problem was, now I had film photographs (FujiFilm Superia 100 in particular) as a bench mark.
And even if I didn’t necessarily want my colour NEX pictures to look exactly like my colour film ones, I wanted to like them as much in their own way.
But I soon realised I didn’t like spending more time on processing than actually out making pictures, and explored other options.
Which led to the Pentax K10D with its lovely (and, ironically, Sony made!) 10MP CCD sensor.
This combo gave me lovely rich colours simply by shooting RAW at native ISO, importing to LightRoom with its auto tweaks and exporting as JPEG.
In their own style, I was as pleased with these colour images as with my Superia 100 film shots.
Success! Kind of.
The K10D DSLR was a hefty beast, and I was tiring using a viewfinder and manual focuse lenses – even though the K10Ds is excellent for a DSLR.
Photography with the K10D was just wearing me out.
So that autumn (2017) saw a significant shift – back to b/w and using drastically smaller cameras like the Ricoh GRD III and Pentax Q.
Since then, I’ve stuck almost entirely to compact digital cameras, shooting in b/w.
I’ve dabbled occasionally with colour (the Canon IXUS I used in January impressed me), but nine out of 10 images (and 99/100 with cameras like the Ricoh) have been b/w.
Currently I’m enjoying the little Pentax Q again, and the colour issue has peeped its head above the pulpit once more.
The Q has almost unlimited colour options.
First, there’s a Custom Image group of 10 settings that by includes Bright, Natural, Muted and Bleach Bypass.
Each of these has five parameters like Saturation, Hue and Contrast, which go from -4 to +4, which can all be set independently.
Then there’s a group of 11 Digital Filters.
Some seem too “gimicky” for my tastes, like Invert Colour, HDR or Fish-Eye. But others offer great promise, such as High Contrast, Extract Colour, and simply Colour.
Again, each of these has further parameters to increase the intensity of the effect(s) and the colour(s) it uses (or extracts).
Any of the Custom Image modes can be used with any of the Digital Filters. Or you can use one but not the other.
Furthermore there are a set of Smart Effects, with names like Unicolour Bold and Warm Fade, connected with the little Quick Dial on the front of the camera.
Or, the four slots of this dial can be used to save whatever settings you currently have set on the camera, so you can set up four different preferred colour options for example, and keep everything else (like focus mode, metering, aspect ratio etc) consistent, and simply just turn the Quick Dial between 1-4 to choose the required colour set up.
Which is eventually what I plan to do.
But before getting ahead of myself, I’m going to start simply, using just the Custom Image to choose something like Natural or Muted as a base point, and gradually explore from there.
When I’ve looked back at my colour digital photographs to research this post, those that make me smile most are those made with the K10D.
And those that have been, not so much disappointing to look at again, but have helped me remember just how much I really didn’t like faffing around in LightRoom for ages to try and find a look I liked, are those made with the Sony NEX and an almost never ending parade of different vintage lenses.
With my fantastic Gang Of Four compacts, that’s a set up I can’t see myself ever going back to.
Small cameras, and using the photographs straight out of camera, is the way forward for me.
Another post will follow in due course with my first wave of experiments and images made with the Q.
How about you, how do you like your colour photography? And how have you got to where you are now?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking.
Share this post with someone you think will enjoy it using the buttons below.
See what I’m up to About Now.