How much color is too much color

Color Comparison

Which of these do you like best?

Confronted with an unprecedented range of software programs and sliders, digital photographers sometimes struggle finding the right balance. Browsing through the websites of my esteemed photography colleagues, I get the feeling that the opinions on color treatment seem to diverge, rather than converge. New software companies, like Topaz Labs, satisfy the need of the extreme end of the spectrum, while purists contest the unnatural appearance of these pictures. Composition and lighting alone used to make good photographs, but today it seems that color treatment becomes just as important. Since all our senses are overloaded every day, it becomes harder and harder to make a visual impact. Attracting a viewers attention may require a bold statement, but how bold is too bold and how much is too much? 

Are you a purist or a color fetishist? Which of the above pictures do you prefer? To make your decision easier, I have put larger versions below. Let's hear your thoughts!


Color Saturation 1


Color Saturation 2


Color Saturation 3

Below is the "consensus image" that I compiled after reader all your excellent comments. I stacked all three images. Image two lies with 50% opacity on Image one, which gives a bridge saturation between Image 1 and Image 2. Then I created a layer mask for the water and used image 3 with 83% opacity for the water. Then I created another layer mask for the sky and the mountains. Thanks to my Wacom tablet it only took about 30 minutes ;-). I put another layer of Image 3 into this mask with 75% opacity.

I hope you like it. I saved all layers and masks into a psd file in case we come up with more ideas.

Color Saturation 3

My opinion

I like the middle one the best because it adds color without being too colorful. The last one is too much for my taste. I would actually prefer something between the first and the second image.

I would use the color of the

I would use the color of the bridge in the middle photo, and the sky color in the 3rd image.

Difficult to say. Probably I

Difficult to say. Probably I prefer the third one. Even the bridge is a little bit over saturated, but the water and clouds are really nice. May be doing a selective saturation it's possible to get excellent result. Let's say bridge from the 2nd picture and everything else from the 3rd one. However probably even very slight desaturation of the pylon (not the entire bridge) will work in this case.

Color Mix

I'd say definitely the third one. The first is far too dull, the bridge is almost perfect in the second, but only the third brings out the hills and other detail that add context to the bridge.


I think the colors are a tad off; the orange of the bridge looks a bit red and the water looks somewhat gray.


Simple question, Andre. Wish the answer was the same. I always feel the best choice is the one that matches the artist's vision of the scene under consideration. But you are asking for our opinions. The bridge is the dominant feature here and I prefer the bridge color in the middle image with my second choice the first image. So I would say somewhere between #2 and #1. BUT I greatly prefer the sky in the third image. This is one of the reasons why I like the NIK suite of filters. You can lay a control point on the bridge and make adjustments to it. Then you can do the same with the clouds and sky ending up with the best of all worlds. Hope this help, my friend.


I discharge immediately the 3rd one, the colors do not look natural for my taste. the sky in the second and somehting in the middle betwen the 1st and the 2nd for the bridge. i do not like too saturated colors.

A little of both....

From a strict do-not-merge perspective, I'd have to go with the first one (less saturation). The bridge is most natural there, and while you lose the sky coloration, I think it seems the most real. However...if I were to go for a studio quality photo, I'd have to merge the sky from the last one (most saturation) with the bridge and landscape from the first one. It wouldn't be easy, but the time would be worth it.

I'm not sure if I prefer #1

I'm not sure if I prefer #1 or #2. #3 is just "too much". Personally, I like my travel photos to be true to what I saw with just a little added punch. I really like the bridge in #1 and the sky and water in #2. IMHO #3 looks too much like HDR...which I think is not photography, but art...


That's a tough call. As Ed stated above, a lot depends on the artist's vision and color. I will personally admit to going a little overboard with color and saturation when it comes to a sunset shot. Other times, especially in more urban scenes, contrast potentially becomes more important than color saturation. For shot #3, the sky is best in that shot, but not from a color perspective in my view but rather because it has the most detail and contrast. But your challenge is that the sky should not the primary focus in this shot and therefore it distracts the eye from the bridge.


That is an interesting range of opinions. I will try to compile a consensus image in a few days. Your insights are very valuable to me (and hopefully others).
I created image 1 by simply applying auto adjustemts in LR, image 2 was done
using a velvia preset in lightroom and image 3 is image 2 with a topaz spicify layer with about 40% opacity.

How much color is too much color

I agree with Richard; however, we were asked to specify an opinion among the 3 given choices. Under the specified choices, I like the second one. For the third one, the bridge looks overly done and nixes that photo as my choice.


I would choose #3 because the clouds and the water look much nicer and even the bridge seems sharper with more detail. More of the "wow" factor. Although it's been many years since I've seen it, I remember the bridge as being more orange than it appears in #1.

Colour Choice

If I had to choose one it would be #3.
If I could mix and match, I like the bridge in #1 and the cloud/sky in #3.

All the best :)

I think first one is my

I think first one is my favorite.

defiantly the third one!!

defiantly the third one!!



i prefferd third one becoz

i prefferd third one becoz becoz the first one is too dull tast in second one here is carrying too much contrast. i like my picture to be real .and third one i find that quality. nice work

wonderful images

All the images clicked are very beautiful. they are so close to nature.i wish i would be there at the bridge,feeling the cool breeze at that point of time


I like this treatment as well.

Color Preference

I would have to say #3 - I love color, in moderation, of course, but I just think that color brings the image to life!


I would say the third one.It has good colour and lighting.First picture to dull.

my choice

for me, i would choose the middle picture. it's pleasant for the eyes and looks real.