My neighbor placed a 20-page photo album on the counter and opened the first page for me. Staring back at me was the first photo, her little boy against a plain white background in a studio. His sad eyes looked blankly at the camera. I flicked through a few more pages, hoping to see happier, better-shot images.
“Are you pleased with them?” I said, trying to sound diplomatic, knowing full well she would not catch the subtlety.
“Very pleased, it was a bargain!” she said, beaming, obviously pleased with the payment she made, but utterly unaware of the enormous technical errors created by the photographer. Perhaps ignorance was really bliss after all.
“Do you mind me asking how much you paid for the package?”
“Three hundred and eighty-five dollars,” she said proudly.
I nearly choked on my tea.
Three hundred and eighty five dollars for 20 images that looked like they’d come straight out of a little compact camera shot in automatic mode with bad lighting. It was a sad and disappointing experience for me as a professional photographer. Studios like the one that took the images of her little boy are what continue to keep the public in the dark about what good photography looks like.
The entire collection had a painfully obvious green color cast to it. This is easy to do when you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s very easy to avoid when you are skilled. It’s unseen when you are a proud mother of a two-year-old boy. Who was I to say anything? I didn’t want to make her feel bad about her outlay.
Green color casts are the result of poor color management under fluorescent lighting. Often, when there is fluorescent lighting and window light mixed together, the camera interprets this as green. All the images will have a green color cast to them if the color is managed poorly.
Fortunately, it’s uncomplicated to fix in Camera Raw. It takes a second to fix, and the problem is usually resolved.
Another blaringly obvious fault was the exposure. Every single image was sitting at the same level of underexposure. I doubted whether the most basic exposure correction techniques had been applied. The white background looked grey, the little boy’s pale blue t-shirt looked grey-blue, and his green eyes looked almost brown.
The sad thing is that this can be easily avoided with a light meter. It’s a small device that tells you exactly, number for number, what to dial your shutter speed and aperture to. You simply press one button on the side of the device, and the numbers tell you the perfect exposure. For studio work, there is no excuse for underexposed images.
Poorly exposed images will never give color their sparkle and brightness. There is just not enough light coming into the camera to be able to reflect the true color. For color to look vibrant, or even true to life, there has to be the right amount of light reflecting back to the camera. Getting exposure right is not only necessary for a well-lit scene, but also color. If there is not enough light, then color falls flat.
Getting great color is no secret. It’s simply done with a grey card. Simply hold the grey card in front of the subject where the light is falling, and make sure it’s correctly exposed. Then take a photo. Set your manual white balance using that photo and—hey presto—you have accurate color.
Accurate color is so incredibly important. It’s the difference between dreadful photos and stunning photos. It’s how you get brides’ dresses white instead of off-white. It’s how you get skin tones looking true to life instead of washed out. It’s how you get black suits looking grey instead of black. Once your white balance is correctly set, you will see a vast difference in all your images. It’s the difference between amateur-looking images and professional images. It sets you apart from other amateur photographers.
About the Author:
Amy Renfrey writes for DigitalPhotographySuccess.com. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (Drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students.
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