In previous post I explained some bits about my own methodology achieving 'good colors' which involved Zeiss glass, VSCO-presets and diligent editing. However, this shortlist is missing something and it's called 'a taste'. I've found that no matter how much one has other resources like lenses or hours for editing, it doesn't compensate the inner vision which comes down to taste. When I started my search for the 'good colors' and 'the look' in general I really didn't know how to do define my target. Sure, I had some examples of what I liked, but to be honest they didn't take me very far. Like all newcomers in photography, I unconsciously thought that 'good colors' somehow mean same as 'more colors' - and I tried to approach the colors with 'Saturation', 'Vibrance' and 'Clarity' sliders. This was years ago when I had wrongly thought that software would give me some sort of edge when it comes to photography. Today I tend to think that I need a careful exposure and while some software provides nice tools, it more about getting basic stuff like white balance, curves and contrast right than esoteric filters.
One could argue that my current 'look' is based on this same premise of 'bold colors', but I would argue it is achieved more delicately. Between the old and new me I have definitely developed my vision and taste. One principle guiding my taste is the idea that photographs should look like 'photographs'. What does this tautology mean, you might ask? Like I already wrote earlier, I think that standard JPEGs out of the camera often look to much like a 'digital files' rather than actual material photographs everyone has seen in their earlier life. I tend to think that when editing photographs one should try to approach these real photographs and try to avoid the temptation of editing them, for example, too perfect (but still keep them contemporary). I'm always questioning myself from this point of view and to be honest I'm also often unsure since there are so many options. While my current look is based on strong and rich colors, there exists many other paths which also carry the legacy of the film era in terms of colors. Think, for example, photographs which have been taken with films and pushed/pulled a stop or two. They represent one specific aspect of the film era and it is evident that these grainy pictures and their subdued colors have molded our perception of photography in a great way. Or the golden slide films like Kodachrome and such, which have vibrant colors and dark shadows - that's another look which everyone knows. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are many different photographic worlds which lives inside the historical legacy of pre-digital photography, and if you're just editing your pictures to 'look better' you are probably missing out something. Testing different looks with something like VSCO and trying to learn differences between different presets might be one way to develop your taste. Getting some books and following interesting photographers might be another. Third way could be to buy some real film and test how it turns out. All in all, it serves to pay attention to 'colors' in some other ways than just the usual raw-editor route.