Playing With Pixels
Adding, Changing, And Jazzing Up Color

As photographers, we love to photograph colorful subjects. We sometimes travel to exotic locations to photograph people dressed in colorful garments and costumes. We frame brightly painted buildings in our viewfinders. We focus our cameras on brilliantly colored exotic birds, fishes, and flowers.

We strive to get super colorful pictures. That's why we use extra color films and color enhancing filters. That's why we get up early and stay out late to record on film (traditional or digital) the beautiful "warm" colors of the early morning and late afternoon. That's why we slightly underexpose our slides to increase color saturation on brightly lit subjects.

I use all of the aforementioned techniques to get colorful pictures. Lately, however, I've been creating colorful pictures in the digital darkroom using the basic tools in Adobe Photoshop. You, too, can get extra color--and wild and crazy colors--in the digital darkroom. And you don't necessarily need Photoshop. Many less expensive digital imaging programs offer similar color enhancing and color changing options.

The images here give you a few ideas to get you started. And I do mean get you started--because depending on your imaging program and your imagination, your color possibilities are endless. Want some more ideas on working--and playing--with color in the digital darkroom? Here are a few pointers:

  • Use the Variations control to see several different versions (more red, more green, more blue, etc.) of a picture at the same time on your computer monitor.
  • Play with the Color, Color Balance, Selective Color, Hue and Saturation controls whenever you have a chance. Let your imagination go wild. Think color.
  • Sometimes, less is best. For example, try taking out some of the color from a picture. Use the Adjust > Saturation control and desaturate an image--a bit at a time. A completely desaturated image will look like a black and white picture. A moderately desaturated picture will look like an old faded color photograph.


I photographed this blue-footed booby in Galapagos on an overcast day. The color is very "cool." I don't mean "cool" in the sense of "that's way cool." Rather, I mean it has a blue tint.
Photos © 2001, Rick Sammonl, All Rights Reserved


Boobies stay out all night in Galapagos, but tourists are not allowed on many of the islands. So, I could not shoot at night. To create the effect of a nighttime picture, I simply boosted the blues in the picture by using the Adjust > Color control.


Ah, that's better. I "warmed up" the picture by first increasing the color saturation using the Adjust > Saturation controls. Then I boosted the reds and yellows (warm tones) by using the Adjust > Color controls. Now the picture looks as though it was taken in the late afternoon.


The Leslie Hotel in Miami's South Beach is a landmark--a bright yellow landmark. Just to have some fun--and to show you how easy it is to change the color of a subject--I simply adjusted the hue of the picture by using the Adjust > Hue/Saturation control. Pink is only one of many colors I could have "painted" the building.

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