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Color editing inspired by James Popsys

As I have discussed before, I find color incredibly hard to get a grip on, especially because it doesn’t stand on its own. It depends on so many other things, like the overall color palette, exposure, contrast, and color temperature of the scene. If it comes to landscapes, I am gradually finding my way around. I guess it’s a matter of viewing lots of photos (your own, but definitely also those of others), getting to know your preferences, and trying to get as close as possible to those preferences in post-processing.


A photographer whose color editing I find particularly inspiring is James Popsys, who has a distinct shooting style, which can be described as a a blend of landscape and street photography. I’ve been fascinated by his color editing for quite a while now and gradually figured out his basic approach.* Doing much of his photography in the lush landscapes of Wales, Popsys’ color editing primarily focuses on greens, yellows, and oranges. As far as I can tell, he shifts all of these colors towards the warmer part of the color spectrum. Yellows, oranges, and reds are shifted towards each other and get a slight boost of both saturation and lightness. Greens, often dominant in landscape photographs, are slightly shifted towards yellow and substantially toned down by reducing both their saturation and lightness. Cyans and blues are toned down as well by reducing their saturation (more so for blues, which are pushed towards cyan at the same time). Magentas and pinks, finally, are left untouched. The table below provides a summary of these basic edits.


Color editing scheme inspired by James Popsys

The color editing scheme that I derived from the photography of James Popsys. Hue indicates a shift towards the color mentioned. Saturation and lightness indicate a slight (single plus or minus sign) or substantial (double plus or minus signs) value change in the indicated direction. Empty cells indicate that there are no changes. I used the basic color editor of Capture One for these edits (which is comparable to the HSL panel in Lightroom).


The result is a very attractive, somewhat subdued, but warm color scheme. It obviously fits the Welsh landscapes very well because of the many greens, yellows, and oranges. It also injects life into photos that were shot on gray days (which must be abundant in this part of the world). It actually works for all lighting conditions provided that exposure and white balance are optimal.


Although Popsys does his editing in Lightroom, the “translation” to Capture One should come quite close, I believe. I have applied variations of the above color editing scheme to several of my recent landscape photos: see the shots below. I have also played with some other techniques that Popsys uses in his edits, such as pushing the highlights (not being afraid of blowing them out) and using a radial mask to brighten and warm up the light from the sun. It was fun trying to “back-engineer” Popsys’ basic color editing. I think that borrowing these bits and pieces from other photographers is a great way to learn and eventually develop your own editing style.


My interpretation of James Popsys’ color editing in some of my own photos. I think that the edit of the first shot (that of the construction trailer) comes closest. Perhaps that’s because it was the only photo that I shot with my Sony A7III, which may have a more neutral color profile than the Provia profile of my Fujis (which I used for the other shots).


*James Popsys actually reveals some of his editing on his YouTube channel and through his Lightroom presets, which I do not have access to because… well, I do not use Lightroom.

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