Have you ever had a vision for a color image fall flat and you couldn’t figure out why?

Has it taken you hours, or even days, to figure out how to accomplish that vision?

I’ve had this happen to me so many times, and over the years I’ve collected a few tips on how to create beautiful color images that draw you in. These steps cover everything from shooting to corrective and creative post-processing.

Shooting

1. Look for color behind your subject

This is one of my favorite creative tools, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the colors of your main subject. Color behind your subject can change the mood of your image, adding a beautiful and intriguing background.

photo of a black cat in a tree by Ebony Logins

2. Use negative space

Not only can you isolate your subject visually, but you can also use color to stimulate the senses. In this image, the white of the jasmine plays on the purity and newness of the wedding day, represented by the rings. Since the viewer has less to process visually, the calming white of the jasmine lets them relax and imagine the fragrance of the flowers.

picture of wedding rings by a flower by Ebony Logins

3. Fill the frame

The opposite of negative space! A little bit of drama goes a long way when you use color to draw the subject’s eye into the image. Using one color can really define the intent of your image. Red, for example, can create a feeling of love, passion, and power in an image like this.

macro photo by Ebony Logins

4. Use complimentary tones

Colors can be the strongest form of communication in your images, due to our biological and psychological responses to them. While the subjects in this image have fallen, the deep earthy tones of this photograph give us a sense of nurturing and hope for regrowth.

dead nature by Ebony Logins

Corrective Post Processing

5. Remove distractions

Have you ever taken the best photo, pulled it into post processing, and suddenly noticed a red sign in the background? An orange car? A bystander’s blue shirt? Remove these distractions in post to keep the focus on your subject.

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before photo of green leaves by Ebony Logins

picture of green leaves by Ebony Logins

6. Remove Chromatic Aberration (CA)

I really do love my Nikon 85mm f/1.8, but it does produce a lot of CA. This is an easy fix in Lightroom, by selecting “Remove Chromatic Aberration” under the Color tab in Lens Corrections. Play with the sliders to defringe – it really makes a difference!

Creative Post Processing

7. Add pockets of color to create depth

I love using the color brush in Lightroom. There is so much you can do with a brush, and my favorite trick is to use triadic colors into the background of an image to make it pop. Choose 3 colors that are equally apart on the color wheel, like blue, magenta, and gold.

close up photo of spiky leaf by Ebony Logins

8. Add a pop of color!

Don’t be afraid of Vibrance, Luminance, and Saturation. They’re easy to play around with, and they can really make or break the vision you have for your color images. This image would have been pretty bland without it. The orange plays against the blues of the rocks and adds intrigue to the overall image.

engagement ring on a rock by Ebony Logins

9. Artificial Sunflare

Some say it’s tacky, but I love a little artificial sunflare! Sometimes you just have to bring a little imagination to an image, and this is a great way to do it. I added this sunflare in post because I love how the neon colors brighten up the overall mood of the image.

wide angle engagement picture by Ebony Logins

Printing and Sharing

10. Check your Gamut

Just as you would check if your blacks are clipped or your highlights are blown, checking your gamut ensures that you won’t lose any information in your colors.

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macro of red rose by Ebony Logins

red rose macro pic by Ebony Logins

By Soft Proofing in Lightroom, you can see where the colors in this image are too saturated and color information will be lost. In just a few seconds, I dropped the saturation in the reds to fix the problem.

backlit fall leaves by Ebony Logins

Color is such a beautiful way to express yourself. Using some of these tools in your work will allow your vision to come to life!