Color is great, most of the time. But sometimes colors can fight with each other or just undermine the mood you’re trying to create. This is where an understanding of how your software’s color controls work can be a big advantage.
You can use these to achieve some very subtle and complex color manipulation in a very short time, and with no need for tricky selections and masking.
I live in a Victorian seaside town with a pier that has some vintage attractions full of bawdy seaside humor like this comical selfie prop. This is probably quite new, but these have been around for decades as proof that selfies weren’t invented with the smartphone!
I liked this original shot because of the almost monochromatic color palette. But it wasn’t quite monochromatic enough – I just wanted the red tones in my main subject, not the blues creeping into the background.
So I opened it in Exposure X5 to see what I could do. It doesn’t have to be Exposure X5 – any half-decent photo editor will offer similar color editing tools.
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01 Pick a preset
You can make color edits manually in Exposure X (that’s the next step), but it’s just as easy to pick a preset first – and it has the perfect preset in its Color Misc Effects category, called Fade All Leaving Strong Reds. It does exactly what it says; the red tones in the picture are emphasises and all the other colors are reduced to shades of gray. But what if I want to make some adjustments or emphasise a different color?
02 Manual color adjustments
As with presets everywhere, they’re made using a pre-configured combination of tools and settings – and I can see how Exposure X has created this effect by swapping to the tools panel in the right sidebar nd checking the Color panel.
The settings that have been changed are in the Detailed Adjustments panel, and you can see here that the colors in the image have been split into eight color ranges: Reds, Oranges, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Purples, Magentas.
These color ranges can all be adjusted individually for their Hue, Saturation and Luminance values – you can see buttons for these above the sliders.
This preset only makes changes to the Saturation values, and that’s all we need to check right now. The initial effect, I felt, was a bit too bright, and the orange tones in the picture were a little oversaturated for my taste. All I need to do here is reduce the saturation values for the Reds and Oranges until I’ve got the look I want.
03 The finished picture
This is my finished picture, and I think it’s a big improvement. It’s also a fairly subtle change and you may not notice a great deal of difference between this and the original picture. But sometimes a subtle change is all it takes to make a big difference to a picture, and here I think it was well worth a couple of minutes’ work.