There are many situations in photography where the lighting conditions or the environment can add a color cast to your images. It often goes beyond the issue of white balance; although, incorrect white balance can cause significant color shifts, they can be easily corrected if you are shooting in RAW format. Unfortunately, color casts created by the environment and not the camera are little trickier to correct. For example a color cast created by your camera’s flash bouncing from a colored wall will be difficult to remove successfully only by correcting the white balance. Also, in situations where there are extreme lighting conditions, e.g. a concert venue, there can be a wide range of lighting used making it impossible to set the right white balance – it will require a different approach to fix it. This tutorial will show you how to remove a color cast in Photoshop using Adobe’s Camera Raw plug-in to correct your images.
Camera Raw is Adobe’s plug-in for Photoshop to develop your RAW images before you load them into Photoshop. It is worth noting that the plug-in is not exclusive to RAW images and can have great results when applied to JPG files as well. If you are using Photoshop CC and want to apply adjustments to your JPG file through Camera Raw, open ‘Filter’ section of your Photoshop toolbar and select the ‘Camera Raw Filter…’ option from the drop down menu.
It will open your image in a new window; if you are opening a RAW file, rather than a JPG, this window will open automatically when you open the file in Photoshop.
The first image of this tutorial, an event photo taken indoors using bounce flash, shows a rather orange looking color cast created by the bounce flash being reflected from the red paint on the walls of the room. It is instantly visible that the colors of the skin and objects in the room have been distorted by the orange tint. Photoshop’s histogram reflects that over-saturation and after the image is fixed we want to see other colors present on the right side of the histogram as well. Using the white balance adjustment can have great results, but to remove the colors cast completely and still preserve the colors of the walls and detail in the image further tools will need to be applied.
Our goal is to remove only the orange color that saturated the image. To do that, open the hue and saturation option in the Camera Raw plug-in – it is the fourth tool in the adjustments panel. It will open the settings for the hue, saturation and luminance of colors. Since we need to remove the orange cast on the image, we lower the orange saturation until the color is improved – avoid lowering the saturation too much as it will create gray areas in the image. In the case of the example image, further lowering the red and yellow sliders helps to eliminated the cast completely; however, be wary when lowering reds as they compose the majority of skin colors – pay attention to the lips as they are first to lose their color if you lower the red saturation too far.
The second example image is a shot from a live performance where there were simply too many different colored light sources for the camera to set the right white balance properly. In order to remove the color cast from the singer, we need to reduce it using saturation adjustments. In this case white balance will be ineffective, since it would reduce the saturation of one color, but intensify the another.
To correct this image we apply the same process. Using the hue, saturation and luminance sliders we remove the color-cast on the singer and lower the values for the remaining colors, so that they do not distract from the subject. We can further adjust the hue of the greens and the yellows for the colors in the image to be more even.
When you finished correcting your image in Camera Raw click ‘Open Image’, if you are using the Camera Raw plug-in as a filter, click ‘Ok’. The corrected image will open in Photoshop.
Did you find this tutorial useful? Learn how to correct white balance in Photoshop in our step by step tutorial here.