Summer is settling in with 90 degree temperatures in much of the country. I love to go out on a warm summer night to take photographs. The light is just right about an hour before sunset. This is a great time for landscape photography because the light is not as harsh as the middle of the day. During this time (also know as the Sweet Hour) I look for back light, front light, interesting shadows, transparency in the subject and golden hues in the atmosphere. Top this off with my traveling glass of wine, and I am ready to shoot! I prefer my landscapes photos to be on the vivid side. The like it when the greens and oranges pop and the subject is tack sharp. This can be accomplished many ways but the way I like to teach beginners is by using settings inside the camera. In this article, I will explain how I handle this in the camera and will also explain how this technique can be accomplished in post processing by using Camera RAW for those of you who are more advanced.
There are just two simple steps to enhance the color of your photos using your DSLR camera settings:
1) Use a Circular Polarizing filter. This is an “old school” technique that was used in the film days. The purpose of a polarizer is to saturate colors. A polarizer can also improve the skies in your photography. Polarizers can deepen the blue sky and brighten the white clouds to create stunning and dramatic skies even in bright sunny conditions. A polarizer blocks the light by 1.5 stops therefore should only be used on bright days or evenings. The shutter speed can be reduced resulting in a blurry picture, so it is a good idea to have a tripod on hand.
2) Change the Picture Style (Canon) or Picture Control (Nikon) from ‘standard’ to ‘landscape’ (also ‘vivid’ in some cameras). This setting alone will produce a noticeable difference. The greens, blues and oranges are enhanced and the sharpening is increased. This setting can be found in your camera menu.
For more advanced students who are familiar with Photoshop there are a couple additional steps you can take: 1) Use Camera RAW setting 2) Process in RAW. Change the color space depth to 16 bit (this can be found in the lower part of the Camera Raw dialog between ‘save image’ and ‘open image’). Click on it and it will bring you to a new dialog where you can change from 8 bits per channel to 16 bits per channel. This change gives you more pixels to work with. To learn more about why this matters click here. 3) Continue processing in RAW by adjusting the color temperature (increasing it will warm up the image), increasing the vibrancy (this will make all colors more vibrant EXCEPT for skin tones). Lastly increase the sharpness of the image, being careful not to over-sharpen. For more localized vibrancy you can use the adjustment brush and brush on vibrancy (or saturation) on parts of the image.
If you don’t have a Circular Polarizer yet, go out and get one. They can be purchased online or at a camera store. You will need to get one that fits your camera lens. If you use several lenses, you will need to get one for each lense. The polarizer rotates, so you simply rotate it until the image that you see through the viewfinder looks right. It works better when the sun is at a 90 degree angle to the sun. Remember to take off the polarizer when you are shooting in dim conditions. For the advanced students you will have more options on how to make the color pop in your photographs. Try both methods and find a technique that works best for you and your style
Happy shooting! For more information on how to use a DSLR camera check the Studio 2.8 website.