Mexico City, 2019

How to Shoot Extreme Contrast and Saturation Color Photography

I’ve been passionate about high-contrast “crushed blacks” monochrome as an aesthetic.

Today, I realized and had a thought:

What if I tried to innovate a new aesthetic– a super high-contrast and super-high color saturation — essentially the monochrome 1600 look, except this time, focusing on color?

I was playing around with my Eric Kim Monochrome 1600 Preset with some RICOH GR II RAW photos I’ve shot in Mexico City, and accidentally clicked ‘color’. I was actually super impressed with the result!

Mexico City, 2019
Mexico City, 2019

I then made a new ‘Eric Kim CHROMA 1600 Preset‘ for Lightroom, and I am very very happy with the results and the look:


As you know, I’ve been a huge proponent for the RICOH GR II for monochrome. I’ve shot lots of good photos with the RICOH GR II in Tokyo, and street photography all around the world. I never knew that you could play with the RAW files with the RICOH GR II to produce quite epic color photos.

For example note the difference between the RAW file and the processed photo with my new Eric Kim CHROMA 1600 preset:

Eric Kim CHROMA 1600 Preset

It is insane how much detail you can pull from the RAW file of the RICOH GR II!

Why high contrast/saturation color photography?

Mexico City, 2019
Mexico City, 2019

Why I love a high-contrast/high-saturation color aesthetic:

  1. More interesting to look at: Color is another visual stimulus we can add to our images.
  2. When I look at my own color photos, they put a huge smile on my face! I’m not sure why.
  3. Shooting color is a fun challenge: More variables to play with in color photography (compared to monochrome). Additional challenge in photography is more fun, enjoyable, and interesting!

Tips to shoot better high-contrast/high-saturation color photographs

You don’t need to shoot with a RICOH GR II — honestly, any camera will suffice. But some basic concepts:

  1. Shoot colorful scenes both WITH flash, and both WITHOUT flash. Benefit of RICOH GR II is the integrated pop-up flash. The benefit of a flash is that it adds more saturation and contrast to a color photograph.
  2. When you see colorful scenes (in bright sunlight), adjust the exposure-compensation of your camera to -1, -2, or sometimes even -3.
  3. Photograph colorful scenes with lots of different textures.

Above all, just have fun with it! :)