It’s a colorful world we live in, and that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes as photographers, we find our images have gone a little sideways when we’ve captured the kaleidoscope of color the world has set in front of us. Colors can reflect where we don’t want them and bounce around to overpower a scene. There are things we can do to counteract this effect in the field and in post processing, though. Let’s go over a few.
ADD MORE LIGHT
Sometimes, colored lighting is the look you want. Just have a peek around the internet, flip through some magazines, and look at advertising imagery and you’ll see intentionally tinted lighting. Gels are huge right now. But when your environment contains a lot of colored lighting, for instance, like what you may find at a wedding reception, you can end up with purple people when that really isn’t what you want. One way to combat this in-camera is to pop in a little bit more light from a source that you’ve brought with you in order to overpower that colorful lighting. This is preferable if eliminating excess color is the goal, as the results are going to look better than if you attempt to fix it in post.
CHECK YOUR WHITE BALANCE
In a very colorful scene, white balance can be thrown off in-camera, and sometimes if things look weird, a simple color tweak using white balance and tint sliders can make a big difference. Be careful if you try the white balance dropper when there’s a lot going on color-wise, especially if there are many colors of light in the scene. You may find that achieving neutrality this way in one part of the scene throws another part way, way off.
Lightroom’s HSL sliders are your best friend when you’ve got a sticky color situation. HSL stands for Hue/Saturation/Luminosity and the sliders allow you to independently tweak eight color channels individually in three different ways. Hue, saturation, and luminosity each have their own tab in Lightroom’s HSL panel. For example, if you’ve got a blue tint in your image from a mixed lighting scenario, you can navigate to the ‘saturation’ tab and pull back the saturation of blues in the image without affecting the other colors. The ‘luminosity’ tab in the HSL panel is used to adjust the brightness of the colors individually, and the ‘hue’ tab shifts the hue within a given range.
In your color correction frenzy, don’t forget that you don’t actually want to negate every bit of intentionally colored light in a scene. In a wedding venue, for example, if the lighting was colored very intentionally, your client won’t want to flip through a photo album that looks nothing like their big day. Pay attention to things like skin tones and neutrals that *should* look neutral, but don’t destroy intentionally created ambiance.
Sometimes when it’s not working out to color-correct for skin tones or neutrals in colorful ambient lighting, you’ll have to strike a balance where neither is perfect but both are acceptable.
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