Have you noticed more and more people using the #nofilter? Or have you noticed lately photos where you’ve thought the colors can’t possibly be real? And if those colors are not real, does it even matter? These are the kinds of questions that bounce around in my head as I try to keep up with social media and as I review student projects.
The popularity of the #nofilter is in part a reaction to the common use of filters in Instagram – I think that much is clear but I can’t help but wonder if there is more to it. Sure, technology continues to evolve so we are able to capture photos with more colors but I also think we are seeing more of these highly saturated photos because we are consuming visual media at an unprecedented rate. And it’s no wonder – taking and sharing photos is easier than ever. In fact on Instagram alone, over 70 MILLION photos are shared on the service EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s a staggering number of photos and that’s just one of several popular social media platforms.
Last week I shared this photo with you and said that the colors were pretty much as I remembered them and I think it is a good example of the kind of highly saturated, colorful sunset photo that I’m writing about today.
The colors in this photo are highly saturated and include blue and pink and yellow and orange – okay, this is starting to sound like the song about Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat so I’ll stop there but I think you get the point. Anyway, I said this is one of my favorite Washington State landscape photos and the colors have a lot to do with that. So what is it about brightly saturated photos that makes people stop and pay attention?
I’ll get more into these color preferences (and how you might choose to incorporate them into your work) next week but this week I want to spend some time on the importance of color fidelity in photography. That is, does it really matter if the colors are real?
First off, any discussion on whether or not colors matter necessarily needs to exclude certain genres of work. In photojournalism, for example, colors should be rendered more or less accurately because that is a profession where truth in reporting is expected. Another example might be (but not always) commercial work. After all, if you see a can of Coca-Cola, you expect it to be labeled with an exact color of red and white. Seeing it in shades of pink and blue would go against the branding that the company has worked so hard to establish since it was introduced in 1886.
That aside, is accurate color important in an image? Does it just depend?
To me, I think it does depend on the image. Certainly there are some types of images that should generally be accurate (like portraits) because we expect to see people with ‘normal’ skin tones but even that is subject to artistic aesthetic choices. In the end, I think it comes down to the intent of the photographer. If an image is made primarily for artistic purposes, then anything goes – Andy Warhol (among others) taught us that – but if an image is meant to be a record of something (even just a pretty sunset or a rainbow), then color fidelity probably does matter.
I think I’ll leave it here for today. Do you agree? Do you think I missed an important consideration? Leave a comment and we’ll continue to conversation next week.