“Capture with your heart”

Film (Firm) Foundation — Gets the Color Right

Photography is, for me, an exciting journey. Not only does it take me to beautiful places, I’m also constantly challenged by the fast evolving technologies. I remember those days when I used to shoot with 35mm slide film such as Fuji Velvia, Provia, Kodak Chrome, etc. I used different films to bring out the best colors and natural skin tones in my pictures. As I know what I could get from these films, I leave the film to do the magic. But in today’s digital age, I find myself taking over the role of an expert film manufacturer who produces these amazing films and the photo lab technician who processes my films into prints. On hindsight, I am thankful to be exposed to film. With a film-based foundation (pun unintended) and knowledge, it allows me to bring out the finest colors in my RAW images.

Many photographers today start off with a digital camera. They do not have any knowledge of film’s color. Hence, they lack a point of reference for color assessment. That also means that they might not even notice that their photographs are losing out on color and tone like what we could get on film. If you understand the source of light, the colors of film, the depth and tone, than using the computer to correct the image color is a walk in the park process. The problem comes when we do not know the basic color fundamentals, such as source of light and colors from Mother Nature.

I have seen many photographers with this problem. Their images are either too photoshoped or too flat for they do not know how to color-adjust their RAW images. Some even went into HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging that totally ignores a fundamental rule in photography—that is the source of light. Photography is all about light and if we fail to consider the source of light in our picture taking than we have totally missed the point. Though HDR images might appear interesting to many people due to its novelty, but like any other trend, it will lose its appeal with time. Just as one could date a particular style of dressing to the 60’s or 80’s when you look at it, HDR images could be dated as a 2009 to 2012 fad. By being unnatural, it lacks timeless allure.

To photographers who go into HDR effect thinking that it looks good and that it is his or her defining photography style, I hope this article will alert you to ponder a little further and deeper. I hope that when people comment on your pictures, they are saying that your photography is good and not your effect is good. Photography is quintessentially about your eye that captures beauty and not the effect that create beauty, because effect is generated by computer but pictures are capture through your eye and is imbued with each photographer’s uniqueness and personality.

Here are some pictures that I have adjusted from the RAW file to simulate how it will appear on film. Without any shadow of doubt I could adjust the colors to whatever color I like with today’s technologies, but I have kept to the fundamentals—the source of light and the original color in Mother Nature. These images are strictly non-Photoshop but color corrected using Aperture 3 image process software. If you compare the color-adjusted images and non-adjusted RAW files on this page, you will get a shock of your life.

To do the color adjustment, we must have a few tools in place.
– Image processing software (For example: Aperture or Lightroom)
– A good monitor (I use Macintosh and EIZO)
– Color calibrating device (SpyderPro)

I am not sure if I should start a class on color management. However if you are serious about photography and want to improve your color adjusting skill, please leave a message on this page. Your feedback will indicate to me if I should conduct a color management workshop. Through my sessions, I believe you will see better colors in your pictures. It is my passion and love for photography that compels me to pass on my knowledge to others. I don’t wish to see good picture with wrong color or flat image that’s being published. Moreover, I would love to see your work done well and being appreciated by people—pictures that lead all of us to respect the beauty of Mother Nature.
Before adjustment RAW file
After the adjustment from Aperture 3
All images are processed straight from Aperture 3

17 responses

  1. Alvin

    Hi Alex, thanks for the article. I’m interested with the color management workshop, let me know if it happens. Thanks!

    January 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm

  2. Abhishek Gunaratnam

    Really appreciate that someone wrote an article like this and a professional himself.Because in Srilanka every one dosent like a picture without an artificial look or artificial light.so really would like to read more articles on how to improve my color managing skills

    January 13, 2011 at 12:08 am

  3. Abhishek Gunaratnam

    really would like to read more articles on how to improve my color managing skills

    January 13, 2011 at 12:10 am

  4. We need more people to follow this page, please tell all your friends who love photography to read on. I hope if I continue writing it, there will be more people reading it or it will be a waste of my effort. There are a lot to learn and understand about color management and process. I am not sure how I could help you guys through writing because we are talking about “colors” but I will try my best here.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:37 am

  5. Repost this on your facebook so that others may read it as well. To me there is no secret about photography and I wished you all will do well in what you loves

    January 13, 2011 at 12:43 am

  6. Hasyth

    This is a very enlightening area. As many people are constantly battling with the issue of color and light management, this brings things into perspective.
    Alex your knowledge is great and helps many aspiring photographers understand the nature and elements in capturing a photograph in a 360 dimensional approach.
    I believe you should start a workshop on photography as the subject, and touch all the areas including color management. Maybe for those who are overseas, you can make the lessons available on an e-document for download.

    Thanks for sharing Alex.
    Hoping to hear more from you.

    January 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

  7. Day Day

    Thank you so much for an insightful article, Alex. I’m very much interested in photography and colour management technique. I hope to attend the workshop when happen. And, I’ll need to practise more for what I’ve learned from you so far (^_^).

    I thank God for you!
    Day Day

    January 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm

  8. ivy lee

    Really appreciate it. Learned a lot. Thank you

    January 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm

  9. Sunny

    The colour and light is a “magical” in the picture… really look forward to this workshop..

    January 19, 2011 at 2:33 am

  10. I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m also looking forward to learning color management as I find my photos too flat and bland. My photos lack the certain ‘oomph’ I see with most of the professional photographers.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:39 pm

  11. Ashok Kumar

    Pls keep me inform on the course, im very intersted to learn and be good.

    January 27, 2011 at 1:53 pm

  12. Ignatius Mah

    Hi Alex,

    Thank you for this wonderful article.

    Yes indeed I am interested in your colour management class.

    Please keep me informed!


    February 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

  13. tuu

    Thank you very much for writing this,,
    I tried to adjust color many time as your pic (After the adjustment from Aperture 3) above, but i still could not do it. I dont know how. I use lightroom though. Would you please tell me where or how i can study that?
    Thank you

    February 7, 2011 at 12:02 am

  14. Pingback: My thoughts about Instagram | Alex Soh Photography

  15. Yvonne

    Hi Alex

    I have been following your photography and have learned so much. I would love it if you would do a color management article. I shoot in raw most of the time and even thoughI have been doing photography for a few years, there is still much to learn and I agree with you light is a major component for great pictures as well as color. Let me know if you do an article on this. I will be sharing your post on FB. Take care!

    April 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm

  16. It’s not my first time to visit this site, i am visiting this site dailly and take fastidious facts from here all the time.

    May 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm

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