“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” by Marcus Aurelius
I was talking with my cousin at the family Easter get together, and he wanted to know about color balance. There are a number of related topics that really needed to covered so as not give a mechanistic answer for color balance including:
- Color space
- How the eye sees color
- Color correction
- Color profiles
What is color balance? I’m sure that you have seen an interior shot where everything is yellow orange and not what it appears to the eye? Or even worse, it is this awful green tint. incandescent lighting produces light that is very orange yellow in color, while florescent lighting produces that green tint light. The eye sees the light as white in both cases, but it is not. Similarly clouds and shade tend to produce blueish tinted light. The photo below was taken in shadow, color correcting leads to the image above. Balancing color is the process of converting the tinted light to an an un-tinted light.
Where does color space come into this? sRGB is typically the color space of the web, but it is much smaller than other color spaces, and this becomes important if you want to print photos. Here is a link to comparative color spaces. It is easy to reduce color by moving to a smaller color space, but it is difficult to make up what should be the color in going to a larger color space. The reasons for shooting in sRGB would be it is quicker for post processing, or it will only go to the web. If those are not your reasons, ask yourself, why am I shooting in such a restrictive color space.
What are color profiles? There are two types of answers:
- First, if you have ever tried to print a photo on your own printer, you know how hard it is to get the image to print correctly.
- Second, color profiles are set of color characteristics that map a device’s color to a standard color model (typically LAB). So, you can have a profile for your camera, screen, printer, or anything else that works with color images. All the color profiles map the device to a norm, so that it is always the same red, blue, yellow that is used across devices. This is what allows printers to match the screen.