If color was a drug, I’d be a total junkie.
I don’t know what it is, but for me just driving and finding a new wall to shoot against is my addiction. Sometimes I won’t even shoot, I’ll just shake my head, mutter to myself about how cool it would be with a person in it, and drive on. I always make a note of it on my phone and return for that magical time when some kid with a red bike will pop a wheelie in front of it. It never happens, but when it does, I feel a sense of relief. Like coming down off a high. Not that I would know what that is like, but it’s the closest I have to crack.
Color is just as important to photography as composition, light , and moments. I generally rate it higher than any of those just for the pure fact that it is the common thread throughout all of them. Color evokes mood, emotion, visual responses. It helps add contrast in certain situations. It can make a photo sing. It can make a photo sink. I promise you’ve I’ve edited out a better moment out of a series of photos, just because an “off” frame has better color. It is that important.
Finding better color in your photos? Location, location, location. It is everywhere, but I have the benefit of living in Florida where people paint their houses pink, yellow, and blue for some reason – if not just for me to photograph against. It is obviously it is a little harder to find in places that insist on uses brick or whitewashing walls. Evil. What I can tell you that color isn’t just paint, it’s light. Twilight is the absolute money time to shoot as any photog will tell you, but I love noon. High noon. That time when the sun is beating down on everything. The reason? Shadow and highlights. Step into a shadow of an awning and shoot out and all of a sudden you see how Alex Webb starts constructing layers with shadows of people in the foreground and color literally bursting out of the frame layer by layer. Shoot at night in some club or through a window and you’ll see how warm light mixes street lamps or how neon cast color on anything that passes. Early sunrise is obviously great for it warm sunlight, but that time right before the sun breaks the horizon is magically soft. Like Charmin soft. Having the foresight to pick the best time to shoot color is key. There is such a thing as too much color.
Newspaper photographers generally don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect light and perfect mood to shoot. It was a reason I got so hooked on color. I needed it to replace light. I got hooked when I worked in a custom darkroom in Boulder, Colorado, making crappy photos less than crappy. I learned color one print at a time for hours on end in the dark.
Getting that pop in your images in Photoshop ? There’s a thousand different ways. I use Selective Color almost exclusively. The new Vibrance tool is awesome as well, but I genrally lasso areas and use it when needed because it affects every inch of the frame. Selective color is by far the best way of controlling color in Photoshop. Take a blue sky, select blues, take away yellow, and drag the black (density) slider and you’ll see skies get deeper. The same for grass. The same for red. You can control color shifts in highlights. You can make blacks black. Selective color is my trick, my baby, my drug dealer. Noise Ninja, Unsharp Mask, Convert to sRGB. Let cool before eating.
I could go on and on and on about Photoshop and color, but it comes with practice. It also comes with patience and the understand of Red-Cyan, Green-Magenta, and Blue-Yellow, and how they work in opposites. Go forth and play.
Time to feed my addiction…the following are from my recent trip to Harbour Island in The Bahamas to shoot a wedding. I spent my time away roaming in a golf cart looking for my next hit. I would go crazy living there. No grey in sight.
Now with less Hisptamatic!