May 4, 2006

Correcting Color Balance in Digital Photos

Color can be a tricky thing. While we rarely think about it, color is not absolute. Your eyes perceive color differently in the daytime and at night, for example. In low light, your eyes can't distinguish color and you tend to see mainly in shades of gray, usually without even realizing it. Likewise, the color of light affects the color of objects we see. Something that looks white in the midday sun might look yellowish indoors, under an incandescent light bulb.

And digital cameras are no different. Often we are surprised by the results of our digital photos when they seem to have a color cast to them. Often indoor photos have an orange cast for example. To determine whether or not you need to adjust the overall color, look primarily at two areas: people's faces and objects that should be white or gray. If the faces look good, you will probably be happy with the picture. If they don't, look at the white or gray areas to see if they have a color cast. Then use the software to remove that color from the overall picture.

Your picture-editing software program will have a menu option called Color, Color Balance, or Variations. You can correct the color cast of your picture by adjusting it according to the chart below:

Color CastHow to Correct
Too yellowReduce yellow or increase blue
Too blueReduce blue or increase yellow
Too greenReduce green or increase magenta
Too magentaReduce magenta or increase green
Too redReduce red or increase cyan
Too cyanReduce cyan or increase red