Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Secret To Capturing Saturated Color

Sometimes the best part of a food photograph is the gorgeous color. I love food photos that have wonderful saturated color. There is something really rewarding and stimulating about the richness of color.

There are two simple things you can do to capture stunning saturated color in your photos. One requires the sun, the other requires a computer. Either way, your photos will pop like never before! I promise.

#1 - Shoot During The Golden Hour

The golden hour usually refers to the last hour before the sun sets (or after it rises) and is known for beautiful warm, intense color. Here is Wikipedia's description:

Typically, lighting is softer (more diffuse) and warmer in hue, and shadows are longer. When the Sun is near the horizon, sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere, reducing its intensity, so that more of the illumination comes from the sky. More blue light is scattered, so that light from the Sun appears more reddish. And the Sun's small angle with the horizon produces longer shadows.

Shooting during the golden hour can present some problems since the intensity of the light is not as strong, but if you're lucky to have a window facing the sun during sunset then it might not be a problem. I tend to shoot all of my photos during this time and have been really happy with the results.

TIP:Use a tripod! Because the light is less intense a tripod will help stabilize the camera and reduce camera shake.

#2 - Increase Saturation Using Photoshop

I always increase the saturation of color in my photos using photoshop. I do this for a number of reasons, the major one being that blogger uses an image compressor to reduce the file size of the image. This causes your blog to load faster but it also reduces the quality of your image. I compensate for this by increasing the saturation of the color using the Hue/Saturation command in Photoshop.

How to Selectively Boost Color was a post I wrote a while ago that has a step by step video.

With these two simple tips your photos will drastically improve. Anyone have any other, color-boosting tips?


  1. Thanks for the tips. My biggest food photography challenge is that I take pics of the food I actually make for my family. That means in the winter it is usually already dark outside when I need to snap the photo. I'm learning to use the camera settings and photoshop to improve the results.

  2. I just learned this week that if you load photos that are too big into Wordpress they become slightly desaturated. It took me awhile to figure out why my carrot soup photo was slightly gray online, but beautiful in Photoshop (on the same screen). I re-sized it to the exact dimensions of my blog and it looked beautiful. Who knew?

  3. Tiffany,

    There are lights you can make relatively cheaply that can help with nigh time shooting. Here is the link


    Blogger does a horrible job of compressing images...allegedly you can upload images directly from Picasa without image loss...I haven't tried it yet, but will soon.

  4. It's true the hue control in photoshop is very effective, sometimes too effective! A bit of restraint will keep the photos from looking fake and unappetizing. Not that you have that problem (I meant me!!) GREG

  5. Well done, as always!

    I'm 100% with you on the natural lighting. It's going to sound silly, but I know a lot of folks who don't think of it: If the light in your kitchen stinks, bring your finished dish outside to shoot it.


  6. I'm dreading the fact that it will be getting dark soon. By the time I get home and make dinner, it's after 7 pm and most of the natural light is gone.

    Maybe I'll have to do a ton of cooking over the weekend in order to take good photos :)

  7. I used a Photoshop action called Digital Velvia to help with color saturation that digital images lack over Velvia slide film. It is particularly useful in food and landscape photography where Velvia ruled the day before the digital age. :)