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tree on mountainside

One of my favorite pictures. I used the techniques described below to manipulate the color in this picture.

Methods Of Changing Color

More control can be gained over an image by decomposing an image first and then manipulating the color channels in either RGB, LAB, CMYK, YCrCb, and HSV mode. HSV and LAB are my favorite modes for editing colors. The G’MIC plugin for GIMP gives you the ability to edit colors in all of these color modes.  
Hsv(Hue Saturation Value)
Adding more contrast to the hue channel will move hues farther apart, decreasing contrast moves hues closer together. Increasing contrast in the saturation channel. channel actually doesn’t add more color to an image as you might think. More contrast will make the areas that are most saturated even more saturated, and the areas that are less saturated will become even less saturated. The value channel is a black and white copy of the image. You can only change the tonal values of the image by changing the value channel. This is also true when decomposing to YCrCb and Lab. There will be one channel preserving the tones of the image while the other two let you modify the colors.  
LAB(Lightness A-color B-Color) and YCrCb(Luminance Red & Blue Chrominances)
YCrCb and LAB split the color into two channels that when changed will have little or no affect on the tonal values of the picture. You can add contrast to one channel like the b color channel to make the yellows yellower and the blues bluer.  Changing brightness on a YCrCb chrominance channelS will have an affect on more hues and will be more of a drastic color change. It sounds complicated, but there really isn’t much thought process in any of it. You just experiment around with different sliders and see how they affect your image.  
Change individual colors
As Silvio mentioned in the comments Lightroom allows you to change the levels and saturation of individual colors. I use Raw Therapee to go through my raw pictures. It has a similar feature. I haven’t used it enough to be able to say too much about this feature, but it seems to be a powerful tool for changing the hue, saturation, or value of a specific color (red, yellow, green, cyan, magenta, and violet). In Raw Therapee this is done gradually, instead of using a threshold, keeping things looking natural when you edit color by color. G’MIC for GIMP has a similar HSV equalizer, but it  has a strict threshold instead of a gradual one so results look unnatural.  
Changing color with LAB YCrCb and HSV

1st pic – original, 2nd pic – HSV Lab and YCrCb color changes, 3rd pic – final picture after tonal adjustments (yeah I know, I don’t like the final resulting picture that well either)



If all of the colors are overly saturated, then none of the colors will stand out. Changing contrast in the color modes talked about above can be used to selectively make part of the image stand out. Don’t overdue the color.
Create a mood
You don’t have to color balance an image to what is most correct. You should be changing the colors to replicate the mood you want to portray.
Warm vs cool colors
cool colors create a lonely cold mood while warm colors give an inviting feel to the scene. Contrasting subjects of a picture with warm vs cool colors can give an interesting affect.
Looking over the ocean

The cool colors in this picture create a calm mood

golden hour
Often colors stand out the best at the time of day photographers like to refer to as the golden hour. See this article if your not familiar with the golden hour.
Change color locally
Using the techniques described above one can change the color on different layers, and then use layer masks to accent specific parts of a picture.  

Color Themes

There are different ways of creating a color theme. Some of these methods are complementary, analogous, triadic, tetradic. Here is a fun game about color themes.  

Further Reading:

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  1. Fantastic effect on the demo photo! Do you know if this technique is the same that Lightroom achives via whitebalancing and individual color saturation and levels?

    • I’m glad you liked my demo photo, I think the first demo picture just might be my favorite picture that I’ve ever taken.

      Earlier today I discovered something similar to Lightroom’s individual color saturation and levels in the program I use for modifying raw images. It’s a pretty fun tool. It’s different from the technique I used to modify my demo photo. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way of achieving the same technique I used in any other photo editing program. I probably should add something about the individual color saturation and levels tool in this article, it seems to be a valuable tool. I look forward to using it more.

      You have some really nice pictures on your website. My favorite picture is the one titled Hubertus hüpft.


  • Tree Crawling out of the Mountainside | Mr. Me's Pictorial Wonder February 26, 2012

    […] looks natural when it’s flipped on it’s side. You can see a version of the picture flipped upright here. That same link also describes some of the techniques I used to manipulate the color in the image. […]

  • Composition | Mr. Me's Pictorial Wonder February 26, 2012

    […] people think that the hue/value/saturation should be change to be as close as possible to the way your eyes perceived the scene you took a […]