Sometimes when people look at our photographs, they ask if the colors are manipulated. Have people told you your photos look "fake", "too HDRish", or that you used too much "photoshop magic"? One of our personal favorites is the assertion that "Photoshop ruined photography."
Believe me, we've heard it all. So, what's our answer to all this? When someone asks if we photoshop our photos, we simply say "Yes". The fact is, we use Photoshop for every single image we take because we shoot only in RAW. We need to choose the proper settings in Adobe's RAW converter.
But how much manipulation are we really using? Each image is different, but here's a typical photograph - and the settings we used in Adobe Camera RAW. (Click on the image to see it at a larger size.)
The most important setting is color balance. The wrong color balance will make the whole image look weird. Jay chose a setting that showed the colors as he remembered them. He also bumped up the color saturation by about 4%. (Varina often leaves this setting at zero.) Straight-out-of-the-camera images shot with Velvia film will have far more saturated colors.
In many cases, we'll use manual blending to bring out details in over or under exposed areas. And we may use targeted adjustments - similar to the way Varina used to use burning and dodging in the darkroom. We use Photoshop to help us bring out details in areas that the camera can not handle properly because the range of light in the image.
So, what's the secret to getting those brilliant colors? Look for conditions that produce intense colors (like sunrise and sunset), get your settings right in-camera, and follow up with subtle processing.