Monday, September 28, 2015

"Printing" with the goal of making colours pop

Years ago I was taught to expose for the shadows and print for the highlights.The goal was to keep a little detail in both the extreme shadows and the extreme highlights. It was a good rule but it can be broken and with some success. (The rule applied more to black and while photography than colour as the two processes were quite different. Modify the development time for colour film and one risked suffering strange colour shifts and other unwanted results.)

This picture of my wife's chrysanthemums is a good example. The oh-so-dark background makes the bright colours pop and contrasts very positively with the clean whites in the flowers. A little detail would be acceptable, even preferable, but it must be minimized to avoid adding a distraction to the all important blooms.

This image was taken into Photoshop and the contrast carefully increased. Care was taken to hold the detail in the highlights. As a rule, we are far more lenient when it comes to accepting detail-missing shadows that blown-out highlights.


  1. Lovely composition. Thank you. The white makes the colors pop with help from the dark background. Was there some fill in flash. I discovered the reason lighting is often bolstered by flash; it can make colors very bouncy in daylight shooting.

    1. Hi!
      Interesting observation. Clearly, you've done some foolin' about with photography.

      Fill flash can be both wonderful in the right hands and a complete disaster in the wrong ones. To make this image, I got by without fill flash.

      When I worked at the paper, I carried a small, warm-silver photo umbrella that I used for flash fill in many situations. I found it best when used indoors but it could also be used successfully to soften dark shadows in harsh midday sunshine. I confess that I never got all that good with fill flash used outdoors. All too often the images had a quality that recalled Hollywood films from the '40s. My fill lighting was just too good, too perfect, too controlled, too unreal. But you are right, the fill flash often cleaned up the colours and eliminated the blue cast that sometimes mars pictures taken outdoors. With the blue cast gone, whites did pop.


      p.s. I still have my umbrella. Maybe I can figure out how to use it with my present camera. Could be interesting. Thanks for the inspiration.