Every so often, I talk shop with guests at weddings. It seems like there is always an “Uncle Joe” who is a photo enthusiast and wants to talk about cameras, computers, flashes… Of course, I’m more than happy to oblige, but sometimes the conversation can start to go on too long. I am working after all.

In honor of all the photo hobbyists and budding professionals I run into, I’m starting this recurring topic “Talking Shop”. My plan is to answer frequently asked questions that I run into regarding the nuts and bolts and the art of digital photography.

This first post is to answer the following email question:

Hi Lisa and James,

We recently attended our good friends’ wedding (Eric
and Heather) and were looking at their wedding
pictures, and were amazed with how warm and vibrant
the colors in your photos were! We’re trying to get
into photography and were wondering if you had any
tips on how to get such great colors in our own photos
(we’re just learning how to use our canon rebel xti).

Thanks, and happy new year!
– Gary

I think using Canon is the first step in getting great shots :-) I use a 5D which has great color rendering, and I’m sure the other Canon cameras use similar software. The next important thing is to use the best lens you are willing to buy. I use all Canon “L” series lenses. This effects sharpness, contrast and color representation. Cheaper lenses will generally show less quality in all of these areas, and good lens will last for many many years and will stay with you through several camera bodies. I also suggest using a flash that is not built into your camera. Accessory flashes usually have great color and they can be angled to bounce off of nearby walls or the roof to make the light even more attractive. The current 580EX Mark II is a great flash and the color of the light works very well with the software in your camera. I shoot RAW mode for everything and leave my camera on auto white balance since I can adjust the color easily later.

When I get back to the computer after shooting, I download all the photos and import them into Adobe Lightroom (I believe you can try it for 30 days for free). Upon importing, Lightroom does a batch process on all the photos. I sharpen, add vignette and brighten everything before I even look at the pictures. From their, Lightroom makes it really easy and quick to adjust color, exposure, vibrance… on large numbers of photos. You can also do amazing black and white conversions in Lightroom.

One last tip, if you are really serious about color, is to use a hardware based monitor color calibration tool. They start around $100 and will make a huge difference in your ability to accurately work on your photos on your computer.

Please comment on this post if you have any questions about photography you’d like to talk about.