The Importance of being colourful

Colour is an interesting thing. It can help or hinder your pictures. It helps if you are using it where it is wanted; it hinders if you use it when it is not, or if you fail to use it when it is.

The Caribbean is all about colour. People are happy, the sun is hot, and everyone uses wonderful bright colours. So a scene like Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, needs colour:

Philipsburg (Photo: Michael Willems)

Technique needed:

  • Flash: I needed to use my Canon 580EX flash for this sign.
  • Exposure: I made the colours vibrant by exposing the rest of the image down a little: 1/200th at f/13 at 100 ISO.

In the following image, I needed no flash – or rather, it would not have done anything:

Sint Maarten (Photo: Michael Willems)

In the next example, I needed the flash just to light the plants that make up the roof, or they would have been black:

Sint Maarten (Photo: Michael Willems)

And one more, where I used the flash:

Sint Maarten (Photo: Michael Willems)

One more – a street grab:

Philipsburg vendor (Photo: Michael Willems)

And one more, again showing wonderful Caribbean colour:

Philipsburg (Photo: Michael Willems)

I suppose this all boils down to a few simple rules:

  1. Decide if color is needed; is it an important part of the image?
  2. If so, expose well – underexposing ever so slightly will make colours more. saturated; overexposing leads to washing out. (Note: you are allowed to “expose to the right and fix in post – you get better quality).
  3. Use a flash if needed to light up areas that need lighting up.
  4. Use the right white balance.
  5. Consider a polarizer on sunny days.
  6. Add a little saturation in post if you have to.


All very logical once you think about it.


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