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How to photograph vivid colors with your digital SLR camera

go to Jump straight to How to photograph in vivid colors

I recently read in a photography magazine that bold vivid colors will win out every time against a well focused, yet dull image. Being the inquisitive photographer I am, I thought I'd test this theory out. Firstly with my Canon digital SLR camera in hand, I headed off to the local Botanical Gardens to photograph a vividly colored flower.

Technically speaking, I didn't want a perfect flower macro. Rather I took the image quite haphazardly. You'll notice in the photograph below that the yellow flower certainly is bold in color, however from a photographers viewpoint, it's not the most focused image.

example of yellow flower photographed in vivid colors

Photograph Of Bright Yellow Flower

The photograph was an instant hit with fellow photographers. Even though the photo wasn't technically the best image, the bold yellow color certainly drew much attention. My guess now, is that if you combine a well focused image + bold vivid colors, then you'll have yourself a winning combination.

How to photograph awesome vivid colors

Method 1: The number one tip I can give for achieving vivid colors in photography, is to focus on something green, then underexpose by 2/3rds before taking the shot. This tip alone, changed my digital SLR photography ten fold. You won't photograph vivid colors unless you first have the exposure right. I won't go into detail on this page, as I've already written about the technical side of doing so over at: Photography Tip For Exposure.

Method 2: Another way to get vivid colors in photography is to tweak a couple of manual settings on your digital SLR camera called 'Saturation'. This is a well known technique used by experienced photographers. Unfortunately, it's also one that's overlooked or never realized by many beginners first starting out with DSLR cameras.

Digital SLR cameras allow photographers to manually change the default color saturation of images. Setting the color saturation to a higher number will result in awesome vivid colors. It doesn't matter what DSLR camera you shoot with, whether its Canon, Nikon, Sony etc, they all have a 'Saturation' camera adjustment. The easiest way to find it, is by doing a quick Google search for your specific camera, or looking in the user manual, as all brands and versions are different.

Listed below are a few cameras I am familiar with myself through experience.

How to change color saturation on a Canon Digital SLR camera

Follow these steps to change the color saturation on a Canon DSLR camera. I own 4 Canon SLR cameras (Canon 7D, Canon 5D, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 400D) and they are all basically the same process.

  • Press the 'Menu' button on the back of your camera, then scroll through to one called 'Picture Style'. You'll notice 6 default picture styles (Landscape, Neutral, Portrait etc) and 3 User Defined.

  • With a style selected, press the 'INFO' button. From there you can UP the Saturation level.

    Personally, I do this for one of the three user Defined styles. Then when I want to photograph in more vivid color, I use the corresponding Defined style ie C1, C2 or C3 seen on the top camera dial, next to M, AV, TV, P etc.

How to change color saturation on a Nikon Digital SLR camera

This is how you change the color saturation on a Nikon DSLR camera. First start off by pressing a button on your camera called 'MENU', then follow the steps below.

  • To increase color saturation in Nikon D3000, D3100, D5000, D90, D300, D300s, D700, D7000, D3 and D3X, look through your cameras menu for an item called 'Picture Controls'. To find this, press your MENU button, then scroll to the camera icon, and you'll see one called 'Set Picture Control'. Choose VI for vivid colors. All Nikon cameras built after 2007 has this menu item.

  • For earlier models like Nikon D40, look for a menu item called 'Optimize Image'. From there you will be able to choose a setting called VI, meaning more vivid colors.

There you have it, now you can shoot awesome photographs in vivid color.

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