When it comes to expressing colour in photos, many photographers opt to maximise this through post processing in the editing room. The reason being, it’s not uncommon to experience moments where you have sunny conditions but the colours appear looking washed out. What’s the trick to extracting colours from your surroundings and inserting them into your photos?
As we detailed previously, the best time of the day for shooting is during the golden hour. Sunlight is soft and warm, whereas that during the middle of the day is a lot more harsh and desaturated. That’s also assuming the sun is on your side. If instead you’re faced with overcast conditions, the results may be even duller. With this in mind, you really should strive to capture your shots during the golden hour when light from the sun is diffused more due to the longer distance it must travel through the atmosphere.
During this part of the day colours, particularly reds and yellows, will start to come alive and glow with intensity. What’s more, skies no longer come across as white from the harshness of the sun. The lower intensity during the golden hour means dynamic range is more controlled, offering colour where previously there were white blow outs and harsh shadows from the overhead sun.
Although it sounds easy to perform your photoshoots during the golden hour, this isn’t always feasible or ideal. However, there are still ways to extract colour from your shots. One way that you may achieve the same warm tone is by using golden foil reflectors. These can be either large circular discs, or small sheets of paper. In either case, they are used to bounce light around and in turn shine colour onto the subject you are focusing on.
Another method to boost the colour in your photos is by using polarising filters. Not only do these filters help reduce the presence of glare, they allow colours to be showcased more effectively. Accordingly, you’ll have a better time picking up the contrast between blue skies and white clouds and bringing out more detail in things that otherwise act as reflecting surfaces. When it comes to picking up the contrast in the blue sky, polarising filters are best used in a camera that is perpendicular to the position of the sun (as opposed to having it behind you or facing it).
It’s also important to pay attention to some fundamental practices. For starters, infusing complementary colours between a background and subject is one way to emphasise focal points and make them stand out. Alternatively, stick with the tried and tested formula for using a soft and neutral background against a prominent subject. The opposite approach is to have the subject of your photo shown in neutral colours and instead introduce lots of vivid colours into the background. Finally, there is an art to using subtle colours to create a minor level of contrast. One thing you don’t want to do is create a sensory overload by using ‘loud’ colours for both the subject and background.
Avoid the temptation to rely on editing programs. Sure they can achieve a lot through various functions and tools concerning hue and saturation, but half the fun and skill of executing a great photo is being able to see a particular vision from the outset and execute it.