How to correct colour casts and adjust the balance of digital images
If you've ever taken photos with your digital camera's colour balance on Auto, only to find you've got a strange colour tint, don't be disheartened. This and a range of other colour issues can be dealt with effectively - if you know how. Peter Wilson-Jones explains.
In an earlier era choosing the correct film to match your intended light source was part and parcel of the photographic process. Not that there were many choices to make - daylight or tungsten-balanced film were the main contenders - 'daylight' for outdoors and 'tungsten-balanced' for incandescent/indoor-type lighting. In those days, modifying the 'temperature' of an image to enhance the vibrance, warmth or colour (taken on a cloudy day perhaps) would invariably mean adding warming, cooling or other types of filters directly to the lens, or alternatively, manipulating the final print in the darkroom by dialling the colour wheels on the enlarger.
Modern DSLRs - and in fact many consumer digital cameras - have colour balance controls built in. The feature typically offers a default auto setting, and a selection of others which encompass the more common lighting situations you might encounter – ‘indoor’, ‘cloudy’ and so on. For most of us, this feature is often overlooked and is rarely changed from auto.
One reason for this could be that when using your camera on auto colour balance, in most instances the camera gets it right - or at least pretty close. But there will be situations where it gets confused. A scenario where there are multiple light sources (daylight together with indoor) will certainly test your camera's ability. Different cameras and/or brands will also have their own particular colour bias. For example, both my Canon cameras apply a slight red cast to some of the images they capture.
For those of you who shoot in RAW mode this isn't necessarily a problem. Those familiar with RAW editing will know it’s relatively easy to correct a colour balance or even possibly a colour cast problem before saving from the RAW editor to a working file. Dealing with exposure mis-demeanours on a JPEG image is a slightly different kettle of fish, but a degree of success can be achieved if you know how. Here I will demonstrate some powerful yet simple-to-use Photoshop tools and techniques which I use on a daily basis for getting the colour right...
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Making DSLR Movies; Profile - Philip Quirk; Tips on how to use your tools to improve your images; Interviewing Ken Duncan and Andrew Chapman; Locations - Great Lakes, NSW; Sony a65v
This story was first published in the Australian Photography March 2012 issue of Australian Photography > March 2012.