≡ Menu

AskJoeB: A Question About Color.


Bonnie sent me this photo with a question. As I always do, I put the message from the photographer so everyone can read it. This way, those that have similar issues or questions can benefit. Here’s what she said:

“Joe, my question on this photo is mainly about the color.  The boat in the foreground was in shade and the one in the background was in the sun.  I like the composition (mostly), but the differences in color (hue?) between the foreground and background is extreme.  I exposed for the boat in the background, so it would be seen.  Would you brighten up the boat in the foreground?  Would you have metered from a different spot?

I did do some post-processing – increased the contrast a bit and cropped off a bit on the right (there was too much space behind the background boat).  Also, the wire lines from the foreground boat cut across the front of the background boat – I’d like some space between the two.  I’ll go back to this spot again (undoubtedly a lot more times!), so I can keep my former mistakes in mind J .


Hi Bonnie,

Ok, first let’s address the question mark (?) you had next to the word “Hue”. The word Hue is basically the characteristics of a color. For example one might say,” Doctor, his face had a yellowish green hue (or color) to it”.

The photo of the boats is not just about color, its mostly about exposure. Let me explain:

The light reflecting off the boat in the background was too far from the boat in the shade. I don’t know what you use to take readings, but I’m guessing you let your camera make the exposure recommendations, and like a good photographer you believe it. Depending on what you had your meter set on, it probably was picking up too much of the boat in shadow. For me, I never let the camera tell me what I should do, which is why I use a hand held Minolta One Degree Spot Meter. If I were to take a reflected reading of each boat separately, I would know that there’s way too much difference to get a proper exposure on each one. So, what to do?

I either change my composition so everything will read the same, or I stick with what I have. If I like what I have, I’m going after the boat in the sunlight, then underexpose it a stop. That’s where I want the colors to have depth and be saturated. What will happen is that the boat in the shade will be a lot darker, so you have to decide if that’s ok. Personally, I think it would still look good. In any event, you can always open the shadow in post.

Btw, If I had been standing next to you, I would have asked you why you didn’t want the boat in the background to be sharp?????? I think it would have looked soooooooo much better. Remember when you have that much distance between the foreground and background, you should always check your DOF to make sure you’re getting what you want.

One last note: If you ever want to become a really good photographer, I strongly suggest you do your cropping in the camera. If you use the computer to do your cropping, you’ll never know where the edges and corners of your frame are. Use the edges of your frame as a compositional tool.

Since I know you took my online class with the PPSOP, and as I tell the students in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops, you probably forget to use your “Fifteen Point Protection Plan“. Otherwise you would have left some space between the cables on the boat in the foreground and the bow of the boat in the background; making it a “quicker read” and not so confusing.


Oh yes I forget to mention that I really like your composition!!!

Thanks for the submission, and I hope it helped.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and be sure to check out my 2013 workshop schedule at the top of this Blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.


Let people know you saw it here!
    { 1 comment… add one }
    • Bonnie Lampley February 25, 2013, 11:59 am

      Thanks for the critique, Joe!
      To answer your questions/comments:
      I metered off the boat in the background, using the 2-degree spot meter in my camera (which I learned to do in SYFOM – thanks!).  I didn’t underexpose, though, knowing it would make the foreground boat that much darker.  I’ll try that next time.  Also, later in the season (more towards summer) there will be better exposure at sunrise, as the sun will rise in a position to shed more light on the foreground boat. 
      My camera doesn’t have a DOF feature.  I’ll try focusing at different depths next time, to see what works best. 
      I do realize I should crop in the camera, but didn’t have much space to move around on the dock.  Same with the lines of the foreground boat over the background boat.  These boats are always moving, so I guess I should be more patient and wait until they move into a better position.  
      BTW, the foreground boat is the one I used for my anchor shot in the first Gestalt lesson.  I can’t believe it still floats!
      Thanks again,

    Leave a Comment