Updated: Sep 16
Colour enhancement can be a huge thing in post-processing, and it is not just about saturating the colours on your photo. Although many people tend to boost up colours using either the Saturation/Vibrance adjustments on Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you can easily overcook your photo and create an unbearable colour.
So how can we boost up the colour without oversaturating our photo and keep the look natural?
Here are some colour adjustment tricks.
1. Decide the primary colour(s) for your photo.
Usually, I would pick one to three colours as the primary colours of my photos. This gives me a better direction on how should I edit the colours on my photo. You can refer to some of the colour harmonies below to decide which colour combination suits your photo.
Photos that are using a singular colour tone is known as Monochromatic Colour Harmony. For the below example, the primary colour is orange.
For using two colours, you can refer to Complementary Colour Harmony. You pick two colours that contradict each other to create a more interesting photo, e.g. yellow and blue.
For three colours, you can follow either Analogous or Triadic Colour Harmony. The first one is about using colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel.
The second one uses three colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel, which creates a triangle formation.
2. Keep only the primary colours saturated.
Now, you have decided which are the primary colours of your photo. When adjusting the colour, you should focus on enhancing the primary colours.
Using the below photo as an example, the primary colour is orange colour. I like the vibe produced by the warm lights from the stone lanterns.
While making other adjustments to add more contrast and darken the photo, I saturated only the yellow colour, making sure that it is the most saturated colour.
3. Keep the most saturated colour only in specific areas
Back on the same photo again. Although yellow is the primary colour of the photo, you may not want to have all the yellow colour on the photo having the same saturation level.
Other than on the stone lanterns and around them, there’s also strong yellow colour on the walkway.
Since we want to focus more on stone lanterns, it would be wise to desaturate the yellow colour on the walkway. Making the walkway less distracting, create a cleaner view and add depth to the photo.
4. Keep the other colours less saturated than the primary colour(s)
For non-primary colours, it is best to desaturate them to create a cleaner photo. You may also want to darken the colour too.
Our primary colour for this photo is orange, so we will desaturate green and cyan/blue colour that are scattered around the forest.
Here’s how the photo looked like after saturation and desaturation. I have also applied other necessary adjustments (e.g. adding contrast, sharpening, darken the photo) to the photo to create a dark, gloomy look.
5. Adding only very subtle Saturation/Vibrance
Although we should avoid using Saturation/Vibrance adjustment and go for selective adjustment, there’s also the situation that we may want to give a bit boost to the overall colours on the photo.
When it is necessary to use them, keep the adjustment subtle so that you won’t oversaturate the photo.
6. Finetune the colour each time darkening or brightening an area
You can change the intensity of colour by changing its brightness value. Because of that, when you darken or brighten your photo (or a specific area on the photo), the colour will get affected.
Notice how the colour of the sky on the above photo changed after darkening the photo using Curve Adjustment Layer on Photoshop.
Because of that, it is necessary to adjust the colour again after changing the brightness value.
That’s all for this article. I hope this will give you a better idea of making a better colour enhancement result via editing.
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