I love the colors in this photostream on Flickr, especially this photo and this one. How can I get colors like this in my photos? Is this done with post processing? Good luck? The lighting looks like either early morning or sunset (ie. the golden hour).

  • 14
    Ouch. The sharpening on those are hurting my eyes. Aug 24 '10 at 23:53
  • FLickr applies some sharpening itself.
    – Karel
    Aug 25 '10 at 4:59
  • 1
    @Karel: Yes, but that's to compensate for the blurring that they get from resizing the images. Those images were oversharpened before uploding them.
    – Guffa
    Aug 25 '10 at 8:02
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    @Guffa - maybe, won't argue cause I haven't seen the images before uploading :) He's not shy with postprocessing, that's for sure.
    – Karel
    Aug 25 '10 at 8:50
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    Those photographs have the look of an HDR image, to me anyway. Aug 26 '10 at 1:51

Yes, it's mostly post-processing. The images have very high contrast, which also makes the colors more vivid.

You can also increase the saturation to get more vivid colors without getting too high contrast.

Your reflection on the lighting is probably correct; the images should have reasonably high contrast and color to start with, or they will look too unnatural if you force the contrast or saturation that high.

To the right I have increased the contrast quite a bit, and also the saturation somewhat: alt text

  • +1: Also specific to Photoshop and Lightroom, both have a Color Saturation and Color Vibrance slider which is often used to produce vivid colors.
    – Alan
    Aug 25 '10 at 6:45

There are a number of techniques employed to get the look of the examples you posted.

  • I think you're correct about the lighting, these pictures were taken with the optimal lighting for their location.
  • The contrast was enhanced. This might be an automatic process as suggested by che, or it may be done by selecting areas of the image and enhancing the contrast directly. The sky in the second example looks like it might have been enhanced more than the rest of the picture.
  • The saturation has been greatly increased to make the colors pop.
  • The sharpness has been enhanced, probably with an unsharp mask filter. This is very easily seen in a crop of the mountain profile in the second example. Notice how the edge has an unnaturally bright and dark line along the edge, this is what you get when sharpening is taken to an extreme.

alt text


You can get close to this kind of look by enhancing local contrast. This works a bit similar to HDR tone mapping, and can be archieved by using unsharp mask filters with high blur radius.

This example was a bit overdone so you can see how easily this can go wrong. Usually you'll get nicer looking results by using just a small amount of this, and perhaps using curves in more layers and then combining them manually if you have really high-contrast image.



  • 6
    It's sobering to realise just how bland unedited shots can look beforehand. Aug 25 '10 at 4:30
  • Where is this taken? It reminds me of Bojnice in Slovakia.
    – jfklein13
    Aug 25 '10 at 4:44
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    @jfklein: It's Karlštejn in the Czech Republic.
    – che
    Aug 25 '10 at 8:55
  • I glad to hear you agree it is a bit over-done ;)
    – matt burns
    Aug 25 '10 at 16:45

Some of these effects can be achieved in camera using a polarizing filter. The images you indicate are likely popped in post processing, but if you haven't tried a polarizing filter out, you might be surprised at home much it affects color.


I'd say those photos you linked to were HDR's for sure -- given the tonal range between the land and the sky. Additionally the first one with the flowing water was done with an ND filter to slow down the light coming into the lens, resulting in a longer exposure time. Very nice photos though :-)

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