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The key to successful digital photography, as has been noted in many of these PhotographyTalk.com articles, is developing your photographer’s eye, not equipment or technique. This was the emphasis of Part 1 of this article because until you’re able to train your eyes and mind to observe the world around you with a photographer’s perspective, you will continue to miss great digital photos. Equipment and technique, however, are also parts of the equation. Part 2 of this article will present some of those tips, so when you do learn to “see” the colors that others miss, you’ll be ready to capture them.
As is stated in Part 1, that peak color moment in a scene or object may last for all of 60 seconds, at a maximum; and it doesn’t happen every hour or day, or even every week. You have to be in the right place at the right time, and even then some sudden change in the weather or uncontrollable factor may spoil that peak color moment.
Setting Color Saturation
Being in the right place at the right time also requires that your camera’s settings are selected and you know how to use its tools to expose your images correctly when the color reaches it peak. For all the advanced technology in digital cameras, setting exposure is not easy. Over-expose your scene by even a small amount and color saturation is lost. Try these tips to set the correct exposure for amazing color saturation.
Review the image on the LCD.
Don’t rely on single-channel histograms.
The reds should appear bright, with no hints of yellow, orange or pink.
If the image appears a bit dark, then you can lighten it in photo editing software.
You can’t save the color in an image with bloomed highlights and no details in editing, so it’s better to create a slightly darker image than one that is too light.
The reason you shouldn’t rely on single-channel histograms to select an exposure that will beautifully capture a peak color moment is because they’ll fool you. The Nikon D50, D70s and the Canon 20D have single-channel, or curved, histograms. The graph will present data to suggest a correct exposure. Take a picture, however, and you’ll discover that what you thought were saturated colors will be overexposed. Typically, only the green channel is what you see on a single-channel histogram. Many digital photographers are drawn to saturated reds and yellows when scouting for color in scenes and objects. Single-channel histograms, therefore, are essentially useless, since they don’t record red, yellow and blue. The graph says, “Shoot,” but the red will not be saturated.
To know that the saturated colors are exposed correctly, you need a histogram that shows all three RGB channels and each channel must have different values. Plus, when there is a significant gap between those values, your digital photos will achieve even greater color saturation. Many of the newer cameras, such as the Nikon D200, Canon 30D and various Casio models, are equipped with four-color histograms. When you are able to correct exposure with the data from a four-color histogram, make sure all the colors’ graphs remain within the viewing space. You don’t want some of them to wander off the right side of the view. Occasionally, you may notice that some of those color values are very low. That’s a good sign there is excellent color saturation because it means there is greater difference between those values.
Read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Learn How to See the Picture Differently, with Histograms, for more information.
Once you change your digital photographer’s perspective to see colors first and scenes, objects and subjects second, you’ll enter a creative space that only a small number of photographers even knows exists. You’ll discover many interesting images in your everyday world that have always been there; it’s just that you didn’t have the photographer’s eyes to see them. Work on that part of your photography skills first and the rest will be easy.
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