Good color in pictures is subjective. Some people like pictures that pop with saturated hues, while others prefer pictures more subdued. What's more, we see colors differently at different times of day—even our mood affects how we see colors. In this article, I'd like to touch on the basics of color in digital photography, with the focus on getting the best possible image at the time of capture. To illustrate the techniques, I'll use some pictures that I took on a recent trip to Panama, where my goal was to take color pictures of the three indigenous tribes: the Kuna, the Emberá and the Ngobe.
One of the great joys resulting from the change to digital compared to shooting film is the ability to get great photo prints optimized for the subject and photographer. Everyone who used to try to get a good, custom print from a slide or negative knows what a challenge that used to be. There were multiple visits to the lab when an image didn't print right and had to be reprinted. Or often, you'd just accept the print as is because it was "good enough," and any changes weren't worth the back-and-forth with the lab. You probably know what I'm talking about.
You probably like the convenience and control of making prints at home with your inkjet printer. With a little practice, you can get outstanding results and a good measure of personal satisfaction by doing your own printing. There are times when it might be a better option to turn to a professional photofinisher to do the work, however. In the early days of digital, this usually wasn't an option, as most labs weren't yet capable of printing from digital files. A lot has changed in a few years, and now even the photo lab at your local drugstore may be offering prints from your digital images.
Classic—the personification of black-and-white images. Weaving that classic look of black-and-white printing into the digital realm is easier than ever today. Software has a range of effects that enables greater control over your images in a way that traditional black-and-white film printing never could. In addition, plug-ins, specialized inks and papers are available that, when combined, produce beautiful high-quality prints with smooth tonal transitions, depth and detail.
Getting a good print today has become the norm with the latest digital cameras and printers. While you still may have some challenges, printer manufacturers, in particular, have worked hard to give users the ability to create outstanding prints. Now it's time to move beyond simply outputting a good print. I want to help you find ways to make your prints better express what you saw when you took the picture and how you felt about the subject.
Though discussions about photography in magazines, classrooms, message boards and camera clubs often focus on the latest photographic equipment or the hottest Photoshop tip, in the end, it really comes down to one simple thing: the print. It's nice to share an image via e-mail or by allowing a friend to look over your shoulder at the camera's LCD, but there's no better way of sharing your unique vision of the world than by reproducing it on paper.