How did this photog get these colors?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by redrabbit, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. redrabbit macrumors 6502

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    #1
    This woman, Chris Spira, is one of my all time favorite photographers. She even shoots with the same camera as me, the Rebel XT, but no matter how much I try, I just can't get the same tones and colors that she does. I assume she is doing a lot of these color effects in post processing. Does anyone have some suggestions on how to get colors like these? I would REALLY appreciate it. Thanks!

    Some examples of what I'm trying to get:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1459739971/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1409765625/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/495854521/

    and

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1383461599/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1363532409/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1362540692/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1364479051/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/427731100/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/393930051/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/422744374/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/392772663/

    No matter how much I play around in photoshop, I just can't get photos to look like hers! :( When I ask other photogs how they think she got it, they always say "play with the colors" but I have no idea what they mean by that. Some specific tips would be really great
     
  2. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #2
    I don't know how basic to get, but can I start with the obvious and see where that goes?

    Morning light, morning light, morning light. There's a reason photographers who shoot pictures of people adore morning light. It really is magical.

    P.S. Speaking of available light photography, Lars Johnsson is amazing. :) Look at some of the ones in this series....
     
  3. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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  4. redrabbit thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #4
    canon 50mm, f / 1.4 mostly, for walking around and snapping people shots
     
  5. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #5
    Hmm. Then yeah, I'd just go with what mkrishnan said, and just pay more attention to when you're shooting. One of the first things you'll learn with natural lighting when using color is that it varies greatly depending on the time of day. You'd think sunset and sunrise would be pretty much the same, but they are totally different. As are 3 hours before noon and 3 hours after.
     
  6. redrabbit thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Interesting. I would have never considered time of day to play such a huge role in photos. Will heed this next time I can force myself to wake up early! (I guess jetlag is a good thing for photogs? :D) Appreciate the advice!
     
  7. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #7
    I could be totally off on this, but I think it has to do with the angle of the sun with respect to the horizontal and the amount of air the sunlight has to pass to get to you (and the portion of the light spectrum that gets absorbed). I think it also has to do with daily humidity and temperature changes, which is why evening and morning are different.

    P.S. The lens you have is excellent. At some point, if you want to do that kind of portraiture, you may also want a longer focal length one -- many people use 85s or 100s because they compensate for the camera crop and also sometimes make bokeh (blurry backgrounds) more easily in that kind of situation. But the 50 is excellent.
     
  8. Vuzie macrumors regular

    Vuzie

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    #8
    agree with mkrishnan...
    I also suggest the following tips-- 1. "open shade" direct light during the day is really harsh and can wash out your colors, 2. Have you tried various lens filters. You can really play with tones and contrast this way. :)
     
  9. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #9
    That reminds me of another thing... reflectors, even just homemade ones, are not considered, as far as I know, to be "illegal" in available light. Bouncing some light can really enhance a photograph and limit the harshness....
     
  10. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #10
    Yeah, you're spot on from what I've been taught. Also, as the sun heats the air throughout the day, the wind will pick up and there will be much more dust and other particles in the air, changing the color of the sky between sunrise and sunset. Time of year also plays a factor, too.
     
  11. Colonel Panik macrumors regular

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    #11
    If you look at her profile, you can find her email address. Try asking her what her set-up is.

    But, a lot of these photos are taken in a low-light situation, so I expect she has some very HQ lenses.

    As someone else pointed out, they seem to be dawn/dusk photos. Dawn has an amazing light quality. She might also be using filters. And post-processing to increase the dynamic range (which I think is what you are caught by). She probably shoots in RAW and engages in a little HDR trickery afterwards.
     
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #12
    Looks like she only works for about 20 minutes a day. Nice work if you can get it. Seriously now, all these shots were taken at very low sun angles near sunrise or sun set. I think the best photographers all know that light is what maters. I also see some intentional under exposure.

    I do think ther was some work done in post processing too but the bulk of the effect was, I think the choise of the time of day and exposure
     
  13. maestrokev macrumors 6502a

    maestrokev

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    #13
    It doesn't hurt that she's a good photographer. Has a Fuji Velvia look to it. Have you increased color saturation and contrast when processing your photos?
     
  14. bocomo macrumors 6502

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    #14
    i think what is easy to forget (or not realize) is how much colors seem to pop when the scene is properly white balanced, i.e. no color cast. this seems to get less attention that lenses and filters for some reason. it is VERY important though.
     
  15. the vj macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    She is using the sun light a lot to get the colors.

    At sun set or sun rise the sun light bounces from every where, very light shadows for a few moments.

    At sunrise the atmosphere is clean, usually the temperature decrease and the condensation cleans the atmosphere, this lead to better and clear light transmision. Tiny amounts of lights bounces every where.

    At sunset usually you have a lot of polution and the polution captures the sunlight as well so the lighting is different, it comes softly from every where and colors are very bright.

    I just came from a job in Aruba, I was taking pictures at some forniture outside and at the sunset the colors were great, the contrast was great, the colors of the fabrics where very nice and it lastest for 30 minutes I think.
     
  16. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #16
    Yeah, it's really all about light. The more you look at the way light works, and how it effects everything it touches, the better photographers we become. It's like recalibrating our eyes to be a little more sensitive to subleties and nuances of light (the very opposite of watching too many Itchy & Scratchy cartoons...).

    The best photographers (IMO) don't spend too much time in post-production. They're just prepared to get up earlier, walk further, carry more gear (plus a tripod), put in a lot of hard work, learn from their mistakes... and keep on doing it till they're good enough to sell their time and talent.
     
  17. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #17
    You are right about that but there is more. I think the main reason is that a professional will have a mental image in his/her head of the final print and then work to make a "product". Many snap shooters take the picture to "capture" a pretty sunset or whatever. To him the subject is the motivation for the image but the pro knows he needs a product to sell and is end-result oriented. So with an image of the desired product it is much easer to know how to set up the shot.

    Read Ansel Adam's texts on the Zone System. He would look at a scene and decide right there that some area of (say) the sky should be rendered as a "number 2 gray" while some other part of the image should be a number 7 gray. He is thinking in terms of the final print before he trips the shutter. You can do color work this way to

    One other huge facotor is editing.
    Pros edit their work and don't show you their rejects. We judge them only by what we see of their work. All of us can appear to be better photographers simply by cutting our portfolios in half. A pro spends more time making images than any of use who have day jobs can and so with more images to chose from can make even more ruthless edits to the portfolio.

    I was at a club show recently. People liked my work, I think mostly because I chose to bring only 8 images. Others who brought 20 or so simply bored their audience.
    This was a show done on a projector with digital images so people were forced to look at them one at a time. You can't afford to have even one weak image in a slide show.
    The web is more forgiving but still if you have 100 images with only 20% of them being good you look bad but if you show just 20 good images you look like the "true artist".
     
  18. mac 2005 macrumors 6502a

    mac 2005

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    #18


    Great photos and a great thread. Looking at the photos, there's more involved here than simply taking the pictures at dawn/dusk. The photographer is certainly using filters and post production techniques alongside good old-fashioned knowledge of the camera--shutter and aperature-- to get these images.
     
  19. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #19
    Yeah, shooting with an incorrect white balance changes things a lot, but if you think about her images, it looks like she didn't actually use the correct WB. If she did, her photos would lose the quality that makes them stand out a bit. But yes, generally speaking, you can't even trust the histogram when your white balance is off, and I think the same can be said for the effectiveness of metering.

    Also, using a colour filter of some sort, even in bright daylight, is better than actually correcting white balance in-camera. If you do it in camera, all it does is amplify the signal in 1 or 2 of the RGB channels, while leaving the others alone. You may have corrected white balance by doing so, but you also narrowed your dynamic range. Instead of in-camera WB, you should use a colour filter.
     
  20. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    #20
    For the first two, it's part lighting, and also part processing. You could be amazed at what a black and white layer blend will do for photos. Create a duplicate layer of your image, convert it to black and white, and then tinker with soft light, multiply, or luminosity layer blending.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    For most of the other photos, I didn't see what was so exceptionally different in the colors.
     
  21. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

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    #21
    If you ever fly long haul, get a window seat, have a camera ready, and be awake for the sunset and and sunrise, you get some amazing colors at altitude, some clouds help you out, but a few times i seriously regret not having a camera available to get "that shot" which was only available for maybe 10-15 minutes. The old saying, a picture tells a thousand words.

    If you are going to be taking photos of a static object such as a building then try different times of day and weather, nothing like some storms rolling in later in the afternoon and getting that intense light with dark dark clouds in the background.

    Although it may seem tedious and boring, ok it is tedious and boring, find a local building/statue/static object. Over a week or two collect a series of photos taken at various times of the day (and different weather if possible) from the same location. Then see how everything changes, take multiple shots each time varying the settings. It will give you a good base example as to what you can expect when moving on to other subjects.

    I guess the other thing is, don't forget to make the shot work, figure out what the shot really is all about and make it work. 500 shots of your uncle Bob asleep in the backyard will not produce much other than laughs at family gatherings, one excellent shot of a sunrise/sunest will have friends and co workers talking for a long time:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/422744374/ : for this shot it works because you are close in on the subject, zooming out would lose the subtle details in the clothing, skin, shells? and the patterns in the baskets.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisspira/1383461599/ : for this shot the distance makes it work, more scenery, a good balance in size of the man in the foreground and the city skyline in the background, noticing that the tallest tower and the man cast almost exactly the same size dark shadow even though the distance from the lens is very different. Zoom in too close and the guy takes over the picture, zoom out too far and what guy?, you have skyline and sky.

    As to the 30 mins work a day, maybe in taking photos, but i wonder how much time is spent finding the subjects and waiting for the right time?


    A bit of a ramble I know, but unless you take the right basic shot no amount of magic can help you.
     

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