Thursday, April 9, 2009

editing 101 - fixing color

I've been asked recently about how to improve color in a photograph, so today's lesson focuses on using digital editing tools to improve color via saturation and color temperature.

With respect to photography, saturation refers to the vibrancy or purity of color in your photos. In a nutshell, your photo is oversaturated if the colors are too intense, and undersaturated if the colors are dull. Color temperature in photography refers to the amount of "heat" or "light" the colors in your photograph give off - essentially the white balance setting on your camera.

Here's an example of a photo that is oversaturated and with a too "warm" color temperature.

Take this picture of my little one playing with (or attempting to eat?) my older daughter's "fuzzy baby." You can tell by looking at her skin tone and by looking at the white of her shirt that something is amiss in this photo. Never fear - Picnik is here!

In Picnik, under the edit button click on the colors tab - there you have the option of adjusting both saturation and color. Adjustment are intuitive - for an oversaturated image, move the lever to the left (like negative numbers), and for undersaturated or dull photos, move it to the right (positive numbers).

Here's an adjustment to saturation only:

And here is an adjustment to both saturation and temperature:

Voila! The purpose of adjusting saturation and temperature is to render the photograph to be as close (color-wise) to what you see with your own eyes. Play around with the adjustments to see how much more color-accurate your photographs can be, but also to see which photos are more pleasing to your eye. For example, even though the last image is the most accurate, I kind of like the tone and colors in the photo where I adjusted only saturation. You decide how much editing you need to get the colors that are best representative of the image. Remember, saturation and temperature adjustment can be made in any photo editing software you choose, not just Picnik.

Any questions? Leave a comment or email me.


Barbara April 9, 2009 at 3:24 PM  

I have a red bathroom that I've tried to capture many times, but it always ends up looking orange. There is very little light near it (down a hallway, no windows) so I have to have the lights on and they are incandescent. I've switched the white balance to the incandescent light bulb on my camera, to no avail. Do you have any other ideas I could try? I'd love to send a picture of it to my grandmother in Iceland. I appreciate any advice you can give me!!! Thank you

Melissa April 9, 2009 at 9:28 PM  

It sounds like when you take a photo of the bathroom, the colors are too saturated and too "warm." I would try lowering the saturation and temperature in Picnik or another photo editing software. In Picnik move the levers to the left until the red looks accurate.

Another option (while you're taking the photo) would be to customize the white balance - not sure your point and shoot has this function, but if it does you would want a kelvin number below 5000 (at least that's my guess) - I can explain in more detail via email if you want to try this option. But post-editing should achieve the same result.

If you'd like you can email me a photo of your bathroom and I can play around with it?

Barbara April 10, 2009 at 7:38 AM  

I can't customize my white balance. I'll take a handful of pictures again tomorrow during the day so I can get the most natural light possible with the tripod and no flash and see what I can do. I have Photoshop for post processing, I might not be doing the color adjustment right. I'll try picnik... If I don't have any luck I'll take you up on your offer to look at it. Thank you!!!