So Ive been working on a few landscapes recently and the colors were something that Id been focused on - however, after working on images for too long, I find myself over using color and the images turn out over worked. I have been using the cheap 10stop welding glass and its tinted heavily toward green - even after adjusting all the colors - I find the colors arent exactly as I would want. I either over compensate or turn it B&W.

My question: How does one judge color to be "correct". Is this just something that each photographer has to judge for themselves or is there an actual way to measure the correct amount of color.

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    Hello there, I think you went a little quick from "The colors in these images with that welding glass are hard to correct." to "Omg, how could color possibly be judged somehow in general anyway?". What if that technical way to measure colors isn't going to give you what you exactly want either? Why not start with the problem at hand and make this question about those specific images with the welding glass and how to correct them? That would make for a great practical question. If you do, please include at least one example raw file.
    – null
    Oct 11 '18 at 18:48
  • Welding glass? A heavy ND filter, you mean? Oct 11 '18 at 19:20
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    This Q is extremely tangential in that it jumps through many loosely related thoughts. It's not even clear that there really is a question, since the OP chooses not to use any actual question marks. It could just be all rhetorical.
    – xiota
    Oct 11 '18 at 20:21
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    It really depends on what you want in the end, and on what you're taking photos of. A vectorscope is probably what you want to look at, after you made up your mind on how much of each color you want in the image, or if you want to keep a balance between all or multiple colors and so on.
    – confetti
    Oct 12 '18 at 5:47
  • @rackandboneman - sure, heavy ND or even a light. I wasnt trying to detail it that much. -- thanks for letting me know i didnt ask the question correctly, Paul has given a wonderful answer that really helped me get toward the answer I was looking for.
    – Rebel
    Oct 22 '18 at 21:18

Hello Rebel and welcome!

Color is never overdone and color is always overdone. See? It's that simple. :- )

Your photograph is what you want it to be, what you want to convey to your viewers, what emotional response do you want? Your laptop is your darkroom. Make what you want.

Of course it is easy to go overboard. The internet is full of oversaturated photos which collect a great amount of likes but, in the end, are unsatisfying.

@Caleb had a great idea. If you want to reproduce accurate colors, shoot a color chart and correct to that. But, you might not want accurate colors, you might want to evoke something different.

I too have shot with heavy ND filters. This is, if my memory serves, a 4 minutes exposure.

enter image description here

It was probably shot with stacked ND filters. So how do I know what the scene looked like? I shot it with my phone also!

enter image description here

As you can see, the colors are similar, but not identical. Now lets visit the same place at a different time with different light.

enter image description here

And here's what my camera saw.

enter image description here

And yeah, it was an older iPhone so the quality is really awful on that. But notice how the original was drab, but the one with ND filters was able to see the green that my mind say, but that the scene only slightly contained.

And finally, don't be afraid to go to B&W, that is a completely legitimate form of expression. I shoot both and you should consider it also.

And you know what is cool about that? I believe the first, brownish, image and the last B&W one were shot at the same photo shoot. You, the photographer, create the scene.

enter image description here

  • I have to ask — what do you think about color saturation in Paul Cézanne's work?
    – mattdm
    Oct 13 '18 at 0:26
  • that old dead french guy sure painted pretty pictures! Oct 13 '18 at 13:43
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    Thank you for your answer - this is pretty much what I was looking for. Someone to slow me down and explain that color is what you make of it.
    – Rebel
    Oct 22 '18 at 21:16
  • you don't need to slow down, nor do you need to speed up. Just be conscious of your choices and motivations... Oct 23 '18 at 1:11

My question: How does one judge color to be "correct".

You can determine whether colors are correct (in the sense of being accurate) using a color/white balance calibration chart. Take a photo of the chart with the same camera settings and lighting conditions that you'll use for your shoot. Later, you can compare the image to the actual chart and adjust your settings to reproduce the colors accurately. If you want to print the photo or display it on another device, though, you'll also need to worry about calibrating the color of your monitor(s) and printer(s). In any case, a color calibration card is a cheap tool that will help you deal, to the extent possible, with the green cast from the filter you're using.

As for whether the color is "correct" in the sense of "the way it should be to make a nice image without respect for the colors of the actual scene," that's really up to you. Some people like highly saturated colors, some like muted colors, some like black and white, etc. It's your image, so adjust the colors however you like to make it most pleasing to you and/or your audience.

  • I would only add to this that intended display matters. Is it for web, home, or on a stark white gallery wall? As an example, my jpgs ready for print are no longer very pleasing for web...
    – OnBreak.
    Oct 12 '18 at 13:09

IMHO it is personal feeling if the colors are over done.

Novadays most of all apps on smartphones are over doing red colour. But people like it. Typical case - someone in red coat or dress. The red coat or dress will be oversaturated. But the same effect on the image of melting steel will look nice.

Plastic colours when using naively HDR is very common, but again some people like it. And the same effect on picture of Lego blocks is nice.

So "over done" is not only related to colors but to the complete topic and composition.

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