Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 17, 2009

Care with Color

Horned Lark - color comparison

Horned Lark - color comparison

Here’s something a little different from my previous posts, motivated by a comment about a perceived color cast to this Horned Lark image from a viewer on a photo critique site. In replying to the color cast comment I decided to do some variations and talk about color in general, and it seemed natural to expand on that reply here in my blog.

Let’s start with the original version (seen here in a previous post but copied to this topic as well for easy comparisons)

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

This was shot in early morning light. The bird is mostly browns and tans. The soil is reddish tan. Checking the file shows the color temperature to be 5250, and the tint in Adobe Camera Raw is -5: both typical values for this time of day and AZ light. To my eye this image looks like the bird I saw in the light I had, and it is the reason most people do their photography early or late in the day just to get this warm light.

Just to see what the overall color of this image is I opened it again in Photoshop, went to Filters>Blur>Average, and turned the entire image into a uniform monotone with RGB values of 168, 131, 1101. This shade of tan is shown as the top right quadrant of the lead image in this topic. Again, no surprise given the subject, setting, and light.

Next, I did what many novices do in Photoshop – I used the Auto settings and got this result:

Horned Lark - Auto Color & Auto Levels

Horned Lark - Auto Color & Auto Levels

I simply applied Auto Color followed by Auto Levels to the image. This took all the warmth out of the image, and for me, it took out most of the appeal as well. The bird might be closer to the illustrations in a typical field guide, but how often do you want that as the result – especially when you’ve purposely gone out early to get the golden glow?

The next variation I tried was setting a neutral color point, and for this I selected a spot on the “white” belly to get this:

Horned Lark - Neutral Point

Horned Lark - Neutral Point

This is done by adding a Levels adjustment layer and selecting the middle “gray” eyedropper, then clicking with it on the pint in the image that should be neutral in color (R=G=B). While we’re talking about this adjustment layer panel note that you probably want to reset the defaults for the white and black eyedroppers (I use 20,20,20 for black and 245,245,245 for white) by double clicking each in turn and entering the new values. This will help limit any clipping when you use these to set white and black points (and since the auto levels command uses these behind the scenes it is best to do this as well).

This neutral version is even more bland than the auto version to my eye.

The composite at the top of this topic shows the original, the average, the auto, and the neutral versions all together for easy comparison. The image was taken at the Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler, AZ.


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: