Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturated Colours

There's a world of difference between taking subtle colours and enhancing them to modest saturation, and taking modestly saturated colours and driving them to full saturation; the difference between sketching and cartooning; between drawing attention and screaming; between Satie and Sousa.

Both have their place, but they're hardly interchangeable. Photoshop gives us powerful tools. Skill is in knowing when not to use them, or even more, how to use them subtly.

In the days of the wet darkroom, novice and even experienced printers would struggle with how dark is too dark, how contrasty is too contrasty. Even Ansel struggled with this, though at a higher plane than most everyone else.

One problem with sneaking up on just the right contrast or saturation or tone, is that the increments are each of them small enough not to be all that noticeable, the but the accumulated changes end up taking us way past the point we might have gone, had we done it in one step.

I find it very helpful to save the image a few times under diff. names during long editing sessions, coming back the next day, with fresh eyes to revisit just how far to go. often the next day I'm horrified at just how far I took something the previous evening without recognizing just how far beyond optimal I'd gone. Often it's simpler to start over.


Tim said...

Glad it's not just me then!

..and a large part of the answer is visualisation: knowing what aspects make for desirable tonality in advance and processing to get them.

It's neither necessary nor sufficient to go completely Zone System about it all, but maybe seeing things through the eye of a different RAW processor can help a lot (in my case, DxO - now I know how far I'm deviating from the Provia view of a scene).

Just Another Abused Air Traveler said...

As a rule of thumb, when I have an adjustment I like, I try to reduce it by 50% to ensure a bit more sublety than I might otherwise have.