Color Pop

Often times the color we see when viewing our images on the computer is not quite as vibrant as we remember. Particularly with RAW images, which are actually defined as unprocessed, uncompressed gray scale images, the camera can only send a vague idea of the scene.  It is our job to process these images.  When you process a RAW image, you are not destroying any pixels and have much more information to work with.  With JPEG images the camera has already made many decisions for you and usually gives a better repreentation of what we saw.  However, when you work on a JPEG image, you are affecting pixels and often deteriorating the quality of the final file. It is totally a personal preference which file type to work with but just keep in mind the differences. I work almost exclusively in RAW.

The often ignored LAB color mode can help bring in the color you originally saw in the scene. LAB stands for “lightness” “a channel or the magenta-green” and “b channel or yellow-blue”.   For those of you who like the tech behind the scenes, here is Adobe’s description of LAB mode.

“The CIE L*a*b* color model (Lab) is based on the human perception of color. The numeric values in Lab describe all the colors that a person with normal vision sees. Because Lab describes how a color looks rather than how much of a particular colorant is needed for a device (such as a monitor, desktop printer, or digital camera) to produce colors, Lab is considered to be a device-independent color model. Color management systems use Lab as a color reference to predictably transform a color from one color space to another color space.”

The Lab Color mode has a lightness component (L) that can range from 0 to 100. In the Adobe Color Picker and Color panel, the acomponent (green-red axis) and the b component (blue-yellow axis) can range from +127 to –128.”

I often find the color rather flat in RAW images and use the LAB color mode to bring the color back… or at least see a version with a real color pop to get me started.  You can make these steps an Action as described in my Post on 1/31/2012.  Feel free to experiement outside the settings I have suggested on the grid.

•Open Image
Original image from RAW file
•Image > Mode > LAB
•Open Adjustment Layer at bottom of layers panel > Curve
•Use “a” from the dropdown – this is the magenta-green channel
•Use the 10-segment grid by clicking Alt and the mouse in the grid if needed
•Move the upper right point 2 squares left
•Move the bottom left point 2 squares right
•Use “b” from the dropdown – yellow-blue channel
•Move the upper right point 2 squares left
•Move the bottom left point 2 squares right
•Use “lightness” from the dropdown
•Run your cursor with eyedropper over the image to find the lightest point of your main subject, and Ctrl click to set a point on your line
•Then Ctrl click the darkest area of your main subject to set another point
•Move the higher point up and the lower point down to achieve the contrast you want in the main subject area
•Flatten image
•Change back to RGB – Image > Mode > RGB

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