Friday, November 13, 2009

Part 1: Capturing Vibrant Colors

It is a common misconception that the vibrant colors you see in a photograph are captured using a special film (like Velvia), or are the result of special processing techniques. While it is true that film choice and post-processing can effect the colors, the art of capturing vibrant colors starts in the field. In this two-part article, we will explore how to create images with vibrant colors.

The circular polarizer is a very commonly-used filter for enhancing colors in a photograph. Circular polarizers cut through glare created by scattered light, and bring out the rich and vibrant colors in an image. This filter is particularly effective when you want to bring out the colors on a wet surface - like the beach in the photo below. Jay used a circular polarizer to reduce the sun's glare on the water, and to bring out the stunning colors at Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.

Another factor to consider when shooting intense colors is exposure. An over or underexposed image will show dull colors and low contrast. The color in a properly exposed image will be rich and vibrant. Because landscape photographers deal with uneven lighting over large areas, they often end up with images that are overexposed in some areas and perfectly exposed in others. Varina's photograph (below) shows over exposure in the sky - and the resulting low contrast and dull colors.
In order to fix the problem, she used a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter to reduce the brightness of the sky. (We often use our iHDR technique to accomplish the same purpose.) The exposure is now balanced between the sky and the ground, and the rich, vibrant colors in the sky have returned.
Another simple but effective way to enhance colors in a photograph is to use reflections. Reflected light - like you see in Jay's photo below - can fill the image with colors. The reflected colors become an important compositional element... and they are especially appealing next to the colors in the sky.

continued on Part 2: Capturing Vibrant Colors

Tips for Capturing Vibrant Colors
  • Select the proper exposure
  • Use reflections to add color to your composition
  • Use a circular polarizer to cut through glare and enhance colors

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