What makes an image beautiful? For many, it’s color. But your camera isn’t going to give you great colors out of the box. It’s a 'dumb' piece of equipment. Even with all of our sophisticated computer technology, your camera is still guessing which settings will reveal the best photo. Most of the time, it’s wrong, and that’s why you get a lot of grey and washed out images when you use automatic settings. Other camera settings are much more ideal for creating heightened color contrast. Let’s have a look at them.
By turning the exposure compensation up or down, you can fool you camera into thinking you’re dealing with a brighter or a darker scene. Most cameras overexpose out of the box, so it’s crucial to decrease your exposure compensation to get a darker and more colorful image.
You can’t change your exposure compensation on most cameras when you’re using automatic mode, so you’ll need to switch over to programmed automatic mode first. It’s the one labelled “P” on your top dial. On most cameras, you can access exposure compensation from the main menu or by holding down the + or - buttons and twisting the horizontal dial.
I always find myself experimenting with exposure compensation. On most photos, I usually decrease it just a little bit, but when you really want to make a scene POP, it helps to decrease your exposure compensation by a few more stops. The only way to really know is to spend some time experimenting with it.
Vivid Color Mode
Camera makers know what you really want to do. That’s why most camera come packed with a number of different color modes to help you get maximum saturation and make your images POP. On my Nikon D40x, I was able to find two different vivid color modes (vivid and extra vivid) along with a bunch of other color modes for whatever artistic mood I’m in. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to adjust anything in Photoshop Elements later on. It’s all done in the camera.
On the Nikon, you can change it's artistic mode settings from the main menu, then the shooting menu, and pick “optimize image.” From there, you’ll get a list of the different pre-programmed artistic settings as well as the option to create a custom setting. Other modern cameras have a similar options. Check your manual.
As you’re taking pictures, keep looking at the LCD screen. I’ll usually start out in vivid color mode, take some pictures, and if I like what I see, I’ll try out extra vivid mode. And why not? More color isn’t always better, but it really does make an image POP. Of course, I’m really really biased. I want all of my pictures to be as colorful as possible.
Don’t forget to play around with custom artistic settings too. There’s a wealth of options there. To increase colors, you’ll want to increase the saturation. You can also tell your camera how much you want it to sharpen your image, compensate for tones, or set the hue. It’s the best non-Photoshop way to make your images POP.
White Balance Modes
If your camera doesn’t come packed with any of the artistic modes, you can bootstrap them off of your white balance settings. How is this possible? Well, white balance basically does the same thing the artistic modes do. It modifies the image data once it is already taken. So, to get more color out of a scene, you sometimes need to set the white balance to something that doesn’t exactly match the shooting situation you’re in.
For example, when you use the “light overcast” white balance setting, your camera increases the color warmth to compensate for the slight cloudiness. If you’re using the same setting when it’s sunny out, oranges will be more orange, and reds will be redder. Want to make your colors pop even more? Go ahead and use the “cloudy” white balance setting. It’s just like using the “extra vivid” artistic mode.
As you can see, there’s more than one way to get a colorful image. You can either spend some time in Photoshop after shooting, or you can take the easy road and do it all from the camera itself. No one way is right. It’s just good to know you have options.
Top Photo By Phillip Munafo
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