You don’t have to spend long on the Internet to discover a thousand magic photo enhancement techniques, a million ‘hidden’ features and a billion (OK, so I started too high) one-click magic presets.
Well, OK. But I thought I’d share some very much more grounded advice on how to make your images look the way you ‘saw’ them. And this time it’s about color editing.
It’s a pretty simple principle. You look at the colors in your photo, compare them to what you saw and felt when you took the picture and, if they’re not the same, do something about it.
All image-editors offer color controls that let you target a specific color or color range and then change its hue, saturation or lightness. In this example, I’m using the Color Editor in Capture One, but any photo editor with HSL color controls will let you do the same.
Step 1: That warm, low sun has lost its richness
This happens all the time with digital cameras. Unlike analog film, which gave you what you wanted, digital cameras give you what’s there. I swear, when I took this shot, the warm glow on this lighthouse was so much stronger than it was in the image my camera captured.
So what can I do? That’s actually quite easy. I need to isolate the tones and colors which are wrong, then improve them.
In the Capture One Color Editor, I can use the eyedropper to click on a part of the lighthouse lit by the setting sun, then boost the Saturation and Lightness to really bring out that warm glow.
Again, it doesn’t have to be Capture One. The Capture One Color Editor happens to be especially good, but any program with an HSL panel can do this, or something like it.
Step 2: That sky should be blue, not gray
So this is the second fix for this image, and one which will create a color contrast that will make a big difference.
I’m sure that when I took this shot the sky was bluer than it came out in-camera, but in any event, blue is a complementary contrasting color to the warm glow of the sunset, so I’m going to enhance it anyway.
This is a second adjustment in the Capture One Color Editor, this time using the eyedropper to select the (faint) blue tones in the sky. Again, I’ve boosted the Saturation value, but this time I’ve reduced the Lightness value to make the sky darker and richer than it was before.
Color edits vs AI masking
Now the current wisdom would be to use AI to select the sky and then AI again to select the subject, then enhance them individually. But for this shot and so many others, that’s missing the point.
The success of this shot depends on color – color enhancement and color contrast. AI subject selection has got nothing to do with it.
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