Photography always has its challenges, and event photography is no different. There are outside factors involved with event photography, such as lighting and background or environment. One major problem with event photography is that you only have one chance to nail that perfect shot. Many times you will get the perfect shot, and sometimes you will encounter what is called color casting. This is where one color overpowers your image over the others. This can be due to many factors, such as low lighting, environmental lighting, or low shutter speed.
Thankfully, Photoshop comes equipped with many tools to help you restore balance to your images.
Here is an image with a red color cast:
Low lighting, combined with bounce lighting from the orange/red wall in the background has given the overall image a red color cast. You can tell because everyone’s skin is too red. Let’s discuss a few ways that we can fix this.
Levels is great, because you can brighten or darken an image and you can fix color problems at the same time. Double-click your background layer to unlock it, and then click the Adjustment Layers icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Choose Levels, and make your way over to the Adjustments Panel.
The problem with this image is that there is too much red present in the image. Click the drop down menu that says “RGB” and select the Green channel. The rule of thumb when correcting an image’s color is that if one color is overpowering the rest of them, then you usually increase the impact of the opposite color to balance out your image. Here, the opposite is Green, but you might also increase the impact of the Blue channel as well. Choose the right triangle under the histogram and slide it a little to the left. This should increase the green strength in the highlight areas of your image.
Our image doesn’t need that, because our problem seems to be in the midtones of the image. You can tell, because your image will look too green. Choose the middle gray triangle slider and move it slightly to the left. You have to adjust this optically, because this is strictly done to taste. If there still seems to be too much red in your image, then select the drop down menu and choose the Blue channel.
Then, choose the middle slider and move it slightly to the left. If it looks too blue, then you have gone too far. You can also go back to the RGB combined channel, and if you select the black triangle on the bottom slider and slide it to the right, you can lighten your image overall. You should see a big difference in your image. Here are my results below.
Option 2: Curves
A Curves Adjustment layer can help you fix color problems. You have control over the Red, Green, and Blue channels as you do with the Levels Adjustment layer, but here you can use points on a line to adjust different tonal ranges of each channel.
If your image is dark, you can click on areas of the line, which will add a point that you can adjust, but if you click and drag upward, it will lighten your image as well. If you drag downward, it will darken your image. Every subtle move counts, so be careful. If you need to make adjustments in increments, then you can use your arrow keys to get more precise adjustments. The gray line is where the curve used to be, and the colored line (it will be the color of the channel that you are on) shows your current adjustment. Again, we will make small adjustments to both the Blue and Green channels, increasing their values so that they balance out the red color cast.
You have the standard eyedropper tools on the left side, so that you can target and adjust pinpoint areas of your image, and you also have different ways of adjusting your curves. The top choice makes adjustments using points, the second one allows you to draw your own curve, which isn’t as accurate, and the third adjustment smoothes out the adjustment that you just drew. The result from the curves adjustment is shown below.
Option 3: Color Balance
Color balance is slightly different from Levels and Curves, because it uses sliders to balance your colors. It works on the theory that if there is too much of one color, you can use the opposite on the color wheel to compensate for it and balance out your image.
Your adjustments can affect shadows, highlights, or midtones, which gives you a lot of control over the exact areas where you want to correct color issues. You will notice that color opposites are on the same slider, and depending on what color is overpowering the others, you will lessen its value, and even slide it over to the opposite color, counterbalancing your colors.
In our example, red is too strong, so we will push it to the left, and add more cyan to the image to counterbalance the red. I also added a little green and a little blue to the image, just to tweak certain areas. Having “Preserve Luminosity” checked will allow you to keep the luminance of your image intact, so that is doesn’t become darker. The results are shown in the image below.
There are other advantages to using these three methods for adjusting colors. One is that they are adjustment layers, so you can mask out areas that you don’t need to fix. This will allow you to blend these adjustments in more naturally. Another reason is that if you click the double circle icon found in the Adjustment Panel, it will clip that adjustment to the layer below, so you can adjust one layer, instead of having to mask your effect, which will save you time and effort.
Another advantage is that you can always go back and tweak your settings, giving you flexibility and more options. You also have access to blend modes, so you can get some interesting effects with your images. For the Color Balance Adjustment Layer, I changed the blend mode to Saturation, and I achieved a better adjustment than just the normal Adjustment Layer. These Adjustment Layers will help you fix almost any color balance problem that you may encounter.