I have just started clicking with my new Canon DSLR camera and while I'm getting used to its functions and settings, I was intending to get the colours more vibrant while clicking my pictures. Any suggestions on camera settings to improve this picture's colour tone before clicking? If not, could anyone please suggest me the best way to do this via post processing in Lightroom? (I have used exposure settings trying to get the picture right)

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ To make sure I understand, when you say "I was intending to get the colors more vibrant while clicking my pictures"...what does that mean? While reviewing them in-camera? While browsing them on a computer? Most cameras don't really include editing features in-camera, although some do support in-camera HDR, so I'm a little confused what your asking. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I certainly know the concept of HDR photography which gets three images at different exposures and combines to give you the best of each. Well I was intending to get the colors more distinct in the above picture, such that the red would be more red, sky would be more dramatic and blueish etc via the camera first (with say so and so settings) and if required (i.e. in the above case) to carry out the post processing of the image and make it look more colorful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ mattdm: I tried uploading via that through my computer, it failed to upload through that. So, had to upload at imgur first and then link it here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: uploaded a smaller version. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking of asking a very similar question, so thanks for putting it up :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – ab.aditya
    Dec 11, 2011 at 3:56

6 Answers 6


Let's see... When you took the picture, you thought you were looking at something like this:

badly recooked version of posted original picture

...and were disappointed to find that what the camera captured was dark, flat and greyish rather than an enhancement of what you saw.

There are two problems with that picture. The first is the difference in brightness between the sky and foreground, which is forcing the earth-bound scene to be rendered a bit too dark. The second is that the colour temperature is too high for your white balance setting (the light is much bluer than your camera is expecting), so the predominant red and yellow tones of the foreground building are desaturated (greyish).

There isn't a lot you can do about the brightness range at capture time. When there is a better, straighter line of demarcation between the bright and dark (as in a landscape with a clear horizon), you can use a split/graduated neutral density filter to darken the bright area selectively, but that isn't practical for this particular picture. It's something that needs to be fixed in post (unless you're shooting JPEGs, in which case your camera may have a setting to bring up the lower midtones and lighter darks).

The second is a matter of getting the right white balance. The presets in the camera only cover a very few common conditions, and "auto" sort of depends on your subject matter being a lot like what the camera expects the "average" picture to look like. A custom white balance using a grey card can help a lot. So can an enhancing filter, which can boost the red end of the spectrum without really affecting the blues much.

I didn't spend a lot of time on the image -- the object of the game was to try to emulate what you saw with the naked eye rather than to make the image "pop". Even at that, though, it took a few tools to get to this point. (I used Photoshop along with Topaz Labs' Adjust 5 and ReMask 3.2 because I have them, but they're hardly the only game in town.) The foreground was processed separately (on a different layer) from the sky, water and the distant shoreline. Both layers had a light enhancement of local contrast and had the exposure adjustments needed to get that part of the image right. I then masked the sky out of the foreground image, allowing the adjusted sky to show through. Unlike a typical overall HDR effect, this masking technique doesn't result in obvious halos.

It may sound like a lot of work, but the "HDR" (local contrast enhancement) part of the job was done using single-click presets, and the masking job doesn't have to be anything like perfect. It's not like I was replacing the background -- I just didn't want the sky to have the same adjustments as the foreground. Total time? Less than two minutes. It wouldn't have taken much longer to make it really pop, but it's your picture, so you get to make the decisions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When I take pictures, I always think I am going to get something else :) So true. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 11, 2011 at 3:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really value your great reply Stan :). \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 11, 2011 at 7:45

I'm surprised no one has suggested the most important thing you can do to improve that picture: Take the photo when the light is better. Let's say that row of houses faces east. There's going to be a window of time in the morning where the low angle of the sun is going to cast a nice warm light on that facade while at the same time the sky behind it is going to be darker. Any clouds in the sky are going to have more dramatic side-lighting. Some mornings the sun may be obscured at the right moment and you'll have to come back the next day. Since the Earth's axis is tilted there may be one window of time during the year where the sun's angle is just right and you'll have to come back on that day if you want the best photo of that spot.

You can do a lot with proper exposure, filters, and post-processing. But just like a zoom lens doesn't replace standing in the right spot those things do not replace taking the picture with the best light.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I agree on that with the lighting but it was a cloudy day and it was a holiday destination for me. Don't go there more often to relish and realize its timely lighting sequence :). \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 15, 2011 at 14:02

I have the same camera. A simple solution when shooting JPEGs would be to use a custom image profile Picture Style (found under Menu>Tab 2) with a saturation of 2 to get richer colours. All of the predefined styles in the camera have a saturation of 0, so this does make a difference, and you can try tweaking the user defined styles further with some trial & error.

This is the setting I've defined at present (Sharpness of 4, Saturation of +2)

Picture Style setting

I have got decent results this way during a festival where there was lots of red all around. Modifying the contrast setting could also help.

If shooting RAW, then you could always adjust the saturation when importing - the Picture Style editor that comes with the camera allows you to do this. Lightroom should also have something similar (I have no personal experience).

This may not work in all situations, especially if the exposure is tricky. In that case you might have to go for post processing of some form like HDR (which is possible using a single shot if shooting RAW)

P.S. I used the EOS utility that comes with the camera to take the settings image.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain more about how custom image profiles work on this camera? (And is "saturation" the only adjustment to make in such a profile?) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 12, 2011 at 0:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I've added details on the settings. Have you used anything similar on Pentax? \$\endgroup\$
    – ab.aditya
    Dec 12, 2011 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice graphical explanation aditya. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neophile
    Dec 14, 2011 at 21:35

Unfortunately related to the camera I cannot help you because I don't know it, but on post processing using lightroom use the colour curve tool not the exposure. With exposure you might get more "drama" to the picture, by making it more dark, but with the colours curve you can clearly adjust 4 different light intervals, light, dark, middle of the curve, highlights at the top and shadows at the bottom. Also work up with the saturation, contrast & vibration sliders, this might help you bring on this vibrant/dynamic effect that you're looking for.

A tool like Photomatix can help you get out more details from an image if colour is not enough.


What you need to do is press the MENU button, go to the bottom of the list and select Picture Style, scroll until you find User Def 1, press the button DISP. next to the MENU button, and you can setup Sharpness COntrast Saturation and COlor Tone. that really made my life happier than ever with my T2i. Regards.


I think the sky looks pretty good, given it's mostly cloud cover. The rest of the image is overexposed underexposed, which is I think the main cause of the muted colours.

Your options are to increase the exposure (and probably blow out the sky), shoot 2 or more bracketed shots and blend them, or adjust in Lightroom (lighten the dark and mid tones, and increase saturation if needed)

If you are shooting JPG, then your camera will apply some presets (picture styles). You can play around with them, possibly choose Landscape or another picture style that brings out colours more. If shooting RAW, then you would be best to do enhancement in Lightroom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You said the picture is overexposed and then suggest him to increase exposure? +1 for the rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Dec 11, 2011 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean the rest of the image is underexposed? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sean
    Dec 11, 2011 at 0:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ under, over, whatever :) \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Dec 11, 2011 at 4:35

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