How to control color in digital photography (II)

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Again, we take up the theme of color to enhance our photographs from the moment they are taken to the point of development. Colorimetry is commonly used in product photography and fashion, but rarely is the topic discussed in the landscape or in the reportage. Today we will define the color and understand how the different digital color modes work.

The origin of color has always worried mankind. There are numerous studies on the use of color in the history. About the function of soot or ocher from clay. The Egyptians got the green color by pulverizing the malachite, a mineral … the Mayans got an explosive red from the Cochineal, a small insect … it was always a difficult color.

The color in history

The first color studies date back to the time of Aristotle. He suggested that colors come from the mixture of the four primary colors that come from earth, fire, water and sky. And he appreciated the importance of light and shadow in its creation.

Leonardo da Vinci chose white as the main color because it blended in with everyone else. And placed the origin of the black in the darkness, robbing us of everything. The first scientific discovery of color is due to Isaac Newton (1676) and his famous prism. When a beam of light was filtered in a glass prism, it disintegrated into bands of red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet. And he defined color as a phenomenon of light.

How to control color in digital photography (II)

Thanks to the famous writer and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, however, we came to the theory that we continue to analyze and take for granted in all the studies we find on this subject. We owe him not only the Faust, a classic work of universal literature, from a pact with the devil in exchange for the divine youth. Thanks to him, the study of color and its harmonies as well as their influence on humans began.

We owe him the color wheel, which is always present in Capture One or Adobe Photoshop. He talked about color psychology, which we use again and again in Western culture. As a good poet of the time, he endeavored to find a romantic explanation for this problem, with a struggle between light and darkness.

All of the studies that we have now in hand and the theories we will deal with in this series of articles have been further developed by Goethe, in which we explain the modes of color, harmonies, and above all, how they are explained in ours Landscape and in practice can be implemented reportage photos.

The light and the color

The color is light. We see color through the light that influences the objects. And the strangest thing is that we perceive the color that reflects surfaces. Not the ones who pick them up. A rose is red because it is the only wavelength that lets us see and makes the perception of color totally subjective. We’ll never know if the color we see is the color our neighbor perceives. So simple and complicated at the same time.

But what is the color? There are many definitions but this is very clear:

A sensation caused by different wavelengths and luminous intensities when striking the retinal cones.

Within digital photography we have several ways of shaping color:

  • Additives , the sum of the colors gives white.
  • Subtractive , the sum of the colors gives black.
How to control color in digital photography (II)
The color wheel

And to avoid confusion, let me point out that we work in the field of photography and light. I say that because everyone in the drawing classes at the school told us that the primary colors were red, yellow, and blue. We always created the orange with the first two and thought we were magicians. In our area, however, it makes no sense:

  • RGB mode , basic in photography, is an additive model. The sum of RedGreen and Blue results in white.
  • CMYK mode is a subtractive model that starts from blue cyan , magenta red and yellow . The sum of the three plus the black (K) gives us absolute black. And it is destined to the world of the presses in which one works with pigments and not with light.

To make things even more complicated in today’s article, we need to understand how to define color and express it with numbers. It’s time to talk about the HSB representation, the three acronyms that define the color: the tone (H), the saturation (S), and the luminosity (B). And how well represented is in the color wheel of our favorite programs.

It can be defined in many ways but we are not going to complicate the end of the article even more. So let’s go to the simplest and most effective:

  1. Tone : it is the color itself. The red, the green, the blue, separated in the color wheel in a radius of 30º.
  2. Saturation : it is the purity of that color
  3. Luminosity : the amount of light that tone has.
How to control color in digital photography (II)
Here we have the colors

We always start with a certain tone that has more or less saturation or Luminosity . All this data can be seen in various applications and pages as Adobe Color or Window Color Picker from Adobe Photoshop, in the numerical data on the right or in your own window information.

Before we start working with our photographs, we can only learn and understand the color harmonies, or find out in a clear way which colors can be better combined with others. And who knows, from now on we’ll do better on the road, if we only know how to read the color wheel.

For next week, I hope you found the Adobe Color Pane in Adobe Photoshop. Just go to the menu Window> Extensions> Theme of Adobe Color.

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