Modifications After Tutor Feedback: Colour Saturation

My tutor Jayne explained in her feedback on my assignment one that her personal inclination on my photographs would be to desaturate less.  When I worked on the photographs I felt that the vivid colours would take away from the main idea.  I wanted to concentrate more on the gaze and face but Jayne explained why she thought it would be better to leave the colours as they are and I found what she said make sense.  Something I would have to research about more for future decisions.  Below is her explanation in Italics  blue:

With regard to the question of colour saturation, don’t worry, there are no rights or wrongs here, and I’m glad that you’ve already considered your reasons for the colour effect. The end results are completely your decision, but here is some food for thought:-

  • For me, as a an objective viewer looking at an ostensibly ‘straight’ documentary portraiture piece, the harshness of the light and vividity of the colours provide a lot of information about the conditions these men might be working under. For one thing, we never ever see this intensity of light in Northern Europe, for example, so – from my perspective at least – the light (and consequent colour intensity) is rather integral to these portraits.
  • Bright colours photographed in sunny conditions will always overpower natural skintones, but if these are the specific conditions of the environment, should they or do they need to be muted? Think of the saturated images of Steve McCurry’s India, for example – do the colours detract from the portraits?
  • Whenever making decisions about the presentation of an image, a question to ask yourself is: what messages do the qualities of the photograph itself send out? Do those decisions strengthen or detract from the desired effect of the work?
    The effect of the desaturation is slightly impressionistic, slightly surrealistic, somehow, and has the effect of distancing the viewer from the “reality” of the person photographed, as though through a screen. I wonder if this then is strengthening the desired effect of the portraits as documents..?

Documentary photographs used to be in black and white, sharp focus and limited editing since it is understood that manipulation distorts the truth.  Black and white used to reflect reality but color is the reality now so why not accept it?  The most important thing of the photograph is the content and the way the photograph documents it, interprets it and communicates it to others.

Colour now is an integral part of documentation.  It can represent things that we may lose in black and white.  Colour has a place and in the portraits I took like Jayne explained the environment condition is hot and sunny, therefore the colour would come out vivid and strong so why mute it and why not represent it the way it is, straight and plain?  I have looked at Steve McCurry’s photographs in India and the colour played a big rule in his documentary photos.

© Steve McCurry

Here is a portrait from my assignment one showing the difference from the desaturated one (Before) which I submitted and the fully colored version (After):

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Final Selection after Color Modification:


Assignment 1 Final


Bibliography / References:

Andrew Sweigart. Beginning Street Photography II: Color in Street Photography [online]. Street Hunters. Available from: [Accessed 29 September, 2016].

Francisco Mata Rosas. Documentary Photography:  The Paradox of Reality [online].  Zone Zero From the Lightsceen. Available from: [Accessed 29 September, 2016].



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