Lots of photographers talk positively about black and white, but you don’t often hear them talking enthusiastically about colour. It’s as if colour is an accepted part of photography but that they don’t really value it in the same way.
Having good colour in your photos is critical but it’s not always easy to achieve. When I discuss photo editing, many of the photographers I talk to only use the Temp and Tint adjustments in their RAW editors to control it. You can achieve a lot with these adjustments, but they don’t allow you to control one vital aspect of a colour image. The relationship between the colours of an image are as important if not more so than the colour temperature and tint.
Look to the image above. Shot in the blue hour, it has wonderful blue tones that graduate towards violet and pink. Had they moved towards red (which is further round on the colour wheel) the image would probably lose it’s calming balance. It may even appear unnatural. So, if the relationship between different colours is so important, and you can’t properly adjust it with the Temp and Tint adjustments, how do you control it.
One way is by changing the Camera Colour Profile which many RAW converters will do. In Lightroom this used to be at the bottom of the adjustments in the Calibration panel. More recently Adobe moved it to the top of the list in the Basic Panel where it’s receiving more attention.
Whilst Camera Colour Profiles will change the relationship between the colours in your photos, they don’t offer much control. You could create your own individual profiles for images but that would be a huge amount of effort. A much better option is to use the often overlooked HSL tool.
For some reason, many photographers ignore the HSL tool when editing RAW files. Some will use it but often it’s to selectively increase or decrease the saturation in a specific colour. But when it comes to changing the colours and the relationship between them not many do. If you recognise yourself, I will ask you to consider trying the HSL adjustment. It can yield huge improvements to image colour.
If you’re unsure how best to approach using HSL for this I’ve created a couple of videos. These explain how I use HSL for my colour work using two different RAW converters. The first one is in DxO PhotoLab (https://youtu.be/qKEDT2xxicQ) and the other is in Lightroom (https://youtu.be/tI0WQybPeAY). These HSL tools are slightly different.
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