what are the settings on my camera that I should be concentrating on getting vibrant colors in my pics.

I sure can take a picture in RAW and play with it in photoshop and get all I want, but I'm looking to get the vibrant colors out of camera.

Any idea?

  • 1
    What brand and model of camera?
    – jrista
    Oct 13, 2010 at 0:45
  • I have a D90 ,18-200 mm vr II ,50mm f1.8 from Nikon. Oct 13, 2010 at 23:55

4 Answers 4


At the very least you need to be using a UV filter when shooting outside. This will help a little by cutting out dirty light.

-Slap a polarizer on there to deepen your blues (sky) and cut reflections. Careful with skin tones though, I've seen weird stuff happen (sometimes) with a polarizer.

-Get your exposures nailed down. I often like 1/3 - 2/3's under as color tends to saturate more, though every situation is different.

-Shoot in Adobe as opposed to sRGB. Again, every situation is different, but as I understand it Adobe has a larger gamut, giving you more "potential" for vibrancy.

-Shoot within your camera's reciprocity guidelines...or don't! Your chip (or film) is prepared to deliver accurate color within a broad spectrum of exposure times. Shoot within this range and you have a good chance of finding good saturation. The range depends on your manufacturer, but can be determined through experimentation. For discussion let's say its between 1/2500 and 15 secs. Big range. Outside of this however the medium's ability to deliver accurate color falls off. What happens, especially on the longer exposure times, is CRAZY deep saturation and altering of colors. Yes, blues go red, yellows go green, pink elephants and walking hammers. Well, not that crazy, but you can have fun with it. This is called "Reciprocity Failure."

-Change your camera setting to High Saturation. Every digicam I've come across has a setting somewhere in the shooting menu that will allow you to crank up the saturation in camera. Look for it.

-Accept that post is where its at. Truly you will always have to post process your images to maximize their potential. Just the way of things.

Happy hunting.

  • 1
    For digital, a UV filter does nothing for the image. Most, if not all DSLR sensors have a uv filter on them.
    – Alan
    Oct 13, 2010 at 2:26
  • To say it does nothing is false. At the very least a UV filter will provide a safeguard for your glass. $40-80 for filter compared to $100's-$1,000's for new glass, big difference. Second, anything you can do to straighten light waves entering a lens is beneficial. Think engines and airflow; even if I have a gorgeous bored and polished straight six with 300 horses that eats asphalt like a starving tiger, I'm going to slap a cold-air filter and straight-line exhaust on that Son-of-a-Gun to maximize output. Same applies with a lens. SUPER-CHARGE! Oct 13, 2010 at 5:55
  • 3
    Breaking/scratching the front element of a lens doesn't write it off so it's more like $80 for a good UV filter or $80 to replace the front element if it gets scratched. You are right that it doesn't do nothing, if you're lucky you'll get a tiny bit of extra UV filtering along with extra flare and vignetting on super wideangle lenses. In general you want the least possible amount of glass in front of the lens (why the cheapo 50/1.8 outperforms the 50/1.2L at f/5.6 - less glass to introduce blur). Lenses have nothing to do with engines!
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 13, 2010 at 8:08
  • 1
    @Matt-Where are you getting a front element to pro glass replaced for $80? Lenses may have nothing to do with engines, but analogies have everything to do with explanations. Sorry to step on your toes big guy. Oct 13, 2010 at 16:00
  • Adobe RGB gives you more potential for right colors, but only when you process the colors properly. If you don't, it will reduce the gamus to sRGB anyway, or worse show AdobeRGB image as if it was shot in sRGB, resulting in even weaker color tones.
    – che
    Oct 14, 2010 at 14:04

Without knowing your camera make and model, I can only give you some general pointers.

There are a number of things you can do to help with color saturation.

  • Lens selection: Better lenses offer better color contrast
  • In camera processing: This doesn't effect RAW images, but you can always bump saturation, and color tones in camera.
  • White Balance: The more accurate your wb is in camera, the better your colors will be
  • I have a D90 with 18-200 mm vr II and 50mm f1.8.. I tried with both, no matter under exposed, over exposed, rightly exposed, with diff WB settings, I can never get those vibrant colors I get in phtoshop. Oct 13, 2010 at 0:07
  • I was hoping answer in terms of Saturation, hue, etc or something else on the camera. Oct 13, 2010 at 0:07
  • Well yeah, you won't be able to match photoshop's post-processing capabilities.
    – Alan
    Oct 13, 2010 at 2:25
  • I know you want 'better' colours out of the camera but in my experience I have found the best results in the RAW conversion stage. But then of course you must photograph in RAW, your choice but you will find it is widely recommended. A great advantage is that you can go back to your earlier RAW photos and change your mind. This has happened to me many times.
    – labnut
    Oct 13, 2010 at 7:17

Make sure the photo is exposed correctly; err on the side of underexposing (so the colors don't get washed out).

Otherwise, I think vibrancy often just comes out in post-processing.


The other two answers are both good tips (use an expensive lens for good colour reproduction, under expose for more colour information in the highlights).

The only things I can add are shoot away from the lightsources to eliminate flare as that can mess with the contrast, use a polarizer for more contrast in the skies, and finally minimise noise by getting as much light as possible.

The other 90% of vibrant colours is down to post!

  • I have a D90 with 18-200 mm vr II and 50mm f1.8. May be I should try adding a polarizer. Oct 13, 2010 at 0:09
  • The 50 f/1.8 will probably perform better, it's a simpler optical design, and less likely to introduce chromatic aberration, stopping down will improve performance.
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 13, 2010 at 8:12

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