Exercise – Control The Strength Of A Colour

There are three qualities that define a colour – bus, saturation and brightness – although most people consider only the first of these – the hue. From now on start to look at colours around you in terms of all three. If you are not familiar with this kind of classification, the second two qualities, saturation and brightness, may cause some confusion. Painting students learn how to mix colours as pigments. In photography we do not have quite the same possibilities. The essential skill you must now develop is that of recognising colours, and being able to describe and compose them accurately.

• The Art Of Photography  (OCA course book), Part 3, What Makes A Colour, p.104


5 photographs of varying exposure. Take one photo for reference of a bold singularly coloured object in a fully automated mode, then 4 more in manual mode (so as to be able to control exactly the necessary exposure levels required). Take two at a half-stop each brighter than the reference image, and two more each at a half-stop each dimmer.


Photo 1 – f/3.2

ISO800, 50mm, f/3.2, 1/60sec

ISO800, 50mm, f/3.2, 1/60sec

Photo 2 – f/3.5

ISO800, 50mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec

ISO800, 50mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec

Photo 3 – Reference – f/4

ISO640, 50mm, f/4, 1/60sec

ISO640, 50mm, f/4, 1/60sec

Photo 4 – f/4.5

ISO800, 50mm, f/4.5, 1/60sec

ISO800, 50mm, f/4.5, 1/60sec

Photo 5 – f/5.6

ISO800, 50mm, f/5.6, 1/60sec

ISO800, 50mm, f/5.6, 1/60sec

I took 5 photos of a something suitably bright in colour at the varying exposures required. Photo 3 is the reference photo, made on a fully automatic setting. The exposure details were 1/60sec at f/4. It’s easy to note how the the images before and after are brighter and dimmer in turn. Brighter not only in terms of the the overall image quality, but also in the apparent actual colour of the material in each subsequent image, ranging from what may first be described as pink down to something closer to maroon. It’s interesting that this apparent shift is due only to a change in the camera’s aperture setting and shows how wide any scene is open to different interpretation. I never shoot in automatic mode, but neither do I shoot in a fully manual mode either. My preferred mode is via aperture control, mostly so as to have control over depth-of-field. The camera typically compensates for exposure by automatically adjusting shutter speed and ISO.


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