Oh, so you have an incredible picture you took or even a slightly fantastic picture but there is just something off about it? So you throw it into Photoshop or LightRoom or GIMP or whatever your app of choice is to ‘fix it’. What does it need? The composition looks good, the lighting is well done and the subject matter is interesting, so what does it need? Maybe just a little tweak here and there. Amongst the numerous actions, presets, textures and layers you can use on an image, the most basic tweaks with hue, saturation and/or contrast can often give the most dramatic results. A simple slide of the saturation bar can bring those colors to life even more. A contrast boost can bring out those shadows just a wee bit, allowing the subject to pop from the background. A hue change from blue to aqua makes that ocean even more vibrant. These little sliders are your friends. Get to know them, use them, love them….
Hue is a gradation of color. Yellow, blue, red, orange etc.. are all hues. Hue is probably the slider you would use the least to make minor tweaks to an image, but it is also the one slider out of the three that can completely change the mood of an image the easiest. Some applications might have 2 sliders for hue: temperature and tint. Temperature is the cool and warm colors, blue – red respectively and Tint is often green – pink. With this system you have to move both bars around to get the desired color you are looking for.
If we take our balloon image above and play with the hues we can get almost an endless combination of colors.
Saturation is the intensity of all colors within your image. Where hue will allow you to change the colors, saturation will allow you to dictate how vibrant they are. Some apps, like Lightroom, even have a saturation slider and a vibrance slider. Use them, play with them, love them. Saturation and its counter-part desaturation can dramatically influence the mood of an image. Many people love, absolutely LOVE the desaturated almost the point of no color look. It invokes nostalgia and allows new images to appear older. You can take it one step further and convert the color scheme to a sepia tone for that much sought after kitchy look of the old west.
Other people love the bright colors. They just can’t let the 80’s go and need loud bright colors ALL the time.
Now you can of course, create simple black and white images by sliding the saturation bar all the way over so that it takes out the color completely. This is probably the most basic way of converting a color image to a b&w one. Though this alone is most often not enough to make the image come to life. You would, most likely, need to work on the contrast/brightness, levels and possibly the sharpness to have the image come to life in black and white.
Speaking of tweaking the contrast bar. Contrast is the difference between the light and dark areas of an image. Raising the contrast creates a bigger difference in those areas, while lowering it reduces that difference.
Most contrast sliders/bars are paired with a brightness bar to help refine the look you are going for. Just as the name implies, the brightness bar will raise or lower the brightness of the whole image.
So there you go: Hue, Saturation and Contrast. They are three of the tools you can use to help bring your images to life. Be it through a different color, more or less intensity of the colors or simply creating a greater difference in the light and dark areas of the image. More often than not the tweaks you will most likely end of up doing are small and not the large differences you see in the images above, but it’s always nice to play once and while. So kick a slider or two to the far left or right and play around, you never know you could just find a brand new style for yourself.