Control the strength of colour


This task is aimed at illustrating a technique to control the colour in a photograph at the time of shooting; it utilises one of the most basic, over saturation.  The exercise requires a subject of strong, definite colour shot from a viewpoint such that the colour fills the viewfinder frame.  Five photographs are required, all composed exactly the same, but differently exposed from bright to dark.  Having found the average exposure setting take the sequence of photographs starting at one stop brighter than the average recorded and subsequently stop down by half a stop each time. On completion note the difference, apart from over-exposure to under-exposure, in terms of colour.


My research for this project began by building on what was given in the course text ( I lost the will to live in trying to find the basic text for the theory of colour on the OCA website).  My main sources were Freeman (2007: 109-127), Freeman (2013: 139-153) and Prakel (2012: 74-85).  Whilst these readings went way beyond the requirement for the first exercise I considered it best to get a fulsome understanding of the subject matter at the outset.  The main learning was to keep at the forefront of the mind Hue, Saturation and Brightness and to view all images, and potential images, in consideration of those parameters. Having considered the requirements for the exercise I selected a piece of green card for the subject.


I mounted the green card on the wall and set up the camera with cable release, tripod mounted, such that the card filled the viewfinder.  The average exposure setting was determined with a hand-held light meter and a custom white balance set using a grey card. All the shots were carried out in manual mode.  There was an unexpected challenge during the shoot which was carried out in a conservatory in the middle of the afternoon, in that the weather changed rapidly and the light kept changing.  This was overcome by resetting everything and completing the shoot in quick time.

The exercise called for the shots to be reviewed for difference in colour apart from the over/under-exposure.  I approached this question with the HSB mantra in mind.  In deliberating this I found the explanation of HSB given in Freeman(2013:141) of the colour cylinder to be the most useful.  Clearly the Hue/colour is constant but as the exposure changes the saturation and brightness are affected.  Looking at the shots from left to right, the constants are ISO and shutter speed and the variable is aperture with decreasing light falling on the sensor giving an increase in saturation or richness of the colour with the final two frames being so dark as to make the colour almost unidentifiable; in other words the saturation increases to a point where brightness becomes the dominating factor.


The exercise has demonstrated the ability to control the saturation of a colour when taking a photograph.  However, It has raised questions in my mind as to the relationship between saturation and brightness where brightness produces the pastel colours; can you have a saturated pastel colour?  There does seem to be quite a lot to get your head round with saturation, brightness, pastel colours, muted colours et al.  But is there a right and wrong treatment?  Again we come back to the eye of the beholder.  Whilst the basic theory of the colour wheel, harmony and discord provide the basic structure the latitude for personal preference appears to be in the saturation and brightness, notwithstanding some will elect to go totally off-piste.

Reference List:

Dorling Kindersley. (2008) art the definitive guide. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

Freeman, M. (2007) The photographer’s eye: composition and design for better digital photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Freeman, M. (2013) The photographer’s eye: a graphic guide. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Prakel, D. (2012) Basics photography 01: composition. Second edition. Lausanne. AVA Publishing SA