I suppose I should begin this post with a definition of what a “color cast” in a photograph is. Basically, it’s a tint of an unwanted color that affects part of or an entire photo. Generally speaking, certain types of light can cause both film and digital cameras to produce a color cast. Sometimes it’s not that bad and can be ignored while other times it definitely needs correcting.
I take photos almost every day of my life and many of those photos consist of food in a specific setting. I have a table set up with two studio lamps, along with a background. The stage pretty much stays the same every time I photograph with just the subjects differing. I’m constantly facing an issue with many of my photos. The affected photos oftentimes have a yellow color cast to them.
Back in the day, I used to think a yellow color cast wasn’t that bad to look at. I enjoyed “warm” photos and really didn’t mind any excess yellow in my photos. As time went on though, I found that having too much yellow in a photo is just downright ugly. The warmth I was looking for should actually have been stemming from more oranges, reds and purples. Yellows – no. After editing and leaving my photos to sit for a while and then upon my return to review them, I discovered the err of my ways. I appropriately corrected them.
In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some methods I use for removing the yellow from my photos. There are three in all and each one is really easy to take advantage of. I’ll use both Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, along with two example photos, to demonstrate.
Continuing on with this post, I’ll be using these two photos to show you how much better a photo can look if its color is corrected. In my opinion, both of these images have too much yellow in them, which is hindering a few other colors from being revealed.
While both of these photos look good already and may evoke an emotional response, I think they can definitely use some work.
Adjusting Temperature in Adobe Camera Raw
The first and most obvious way for removing yellow from a photo is to use the Temperature slider in Camera Raw. This slider is a sliding scale that travels between blue and yellow. You can add yellow and remove blue by pushing the slider to the right and remove yellow and add blue by pushing the slider to the left. Here’s a screenshot of it.
I’ve actually gone over how to adjust white balance in a photo on this blog before.
In the photo of the pier, I can see that there’s a minor bit of yellow color as well as some extra orange. The way I can see this is by looking at something that’s supposed to be white. Since clouds on a sunny day are always supposed to be white, that’s a good indication.
To correct this anomaly, I can simply push the Temperature slider to the left slightly. I’ll push it until a value of -15 is showing, which seems to have cleared up the issue.
I always feel like after I color correct a photo, it’s sort of like rubbing my eyes and being able to see clearly again. Take a look at the photo now. It just looks more accurate.
If I make the same kind of correction in the other image, I can see a much better looking photo. This time, I pushed the Temperature slider to the left until I hit a value of -25. That seemed to do the trick.
The issue with this method though, as you may have noticed, is if there’s a large amount of yellow in the photo and pushing the Temperature slider greatly to the left is required, we may get some unexpected blue in the result. If you look at the girl’s hair, you can see that blue. I don’t want that, so I’m going to abandon this method and head towards the next.
Adjusting Selective Color in Adobe Camera Raw
In the case of the girl in the field, all I want is to reduce the yellow. I don’t want to mess with any other colors and I especially don’t want to replace some of the yellow with blue. Even though blue does make whites look whiter and even though some laundry detergents use the addition of this color as a cleansing technique, I don’t want any in this case. So, to deal with this, I’ll push the Temperature slider back to its original state and I’ll head over to the HSL/Grayscale panel in Camera Raw. Once there, I’ll make sure the Saturation tab is active.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at this panel in Camera Raw, please visit this post:
When adjusting colors with this panel, I’ll use the same technique I used previously. I’ll look for an object that supposed to be white in the photo and try to determine what kind of color cast I have. In this case, the sun is supposed to be white, which means I’ve got way too much yellow in the photo. To deal with this, I’ll push the Yellow slider to the left until I reach a value of -60.
Making this one small change really cleaned up the photo. Take a look at Camera Raw’s before and after view.
How did I use the before and after view? Well, you can read this post to find out:
And if I really wanted to obtain some pure white in the area of the sun and didn’t want to guess which sliders to push, I could always take advantage of the Targeted Adjustment Tool.
Clicking and dragging in the area of the sun, to the left, would more the Yellow slider even more and the Green slider just a bit.
I would end up with a much better looking and more accurate photo.
Using a Selective Color Adjustment Layer in Adobe Photoshop
If you’re a lover of Photoshop, by all means, head right into that to do your editing. Photoshop has come a long way from its early days and can now make all sorts of changes to a photo, non-destructively. In this final section, I’m going to show you how to remove some of the yellow from these photos using an adjustment layer.
I’ve already got both images opened up in Photoshop. I’ll work on the one of the pier in this section. To deal with the color cast in this photo, I’ll head down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon. When the menu appears, I’ll click on Selective Color.
This will create and add a Selective Color adjustment layer to the Layers panel. It will also open up the Properties panel for that adjustment layer.
If you take a look inside the Properties panel, you’ll see a drop-down box. Since it’s the whites I’d like to remove any color cast from, I’ll select that – Whites.
Then, from the CMYK sliders below the drop-down, I’ll push the Yellows slider to the left, to remove some of that color.
I just pushed this slider all the way to the left and noticed a small difference. If I wanted to truly remove the yellows from this photo, I’d select Yellows from the drop-down and push the Yellows slider to the left again. The color that you select in the drop-down menu is the one you target and the sliders are what actually adds or removes color from the target. It’s really simple and can be done with any color, not only yellow. If I wanted to add or remove green or orange, I could follow the same instructions to target those colors.
One last thing – I want to talk about the two radio buttons down below the sliders in the Properties panel. These are Relative and Absolute.
When I was editing the colors in this example photo, I kept the Relative setting selected. Basically, a relative adjustment is quite subtle in that it takes the percentage of the specific color tone in a photograph and determines how much of a change should be made based on that percentage of the total. In my case, if there were 30% yellow color tones in this example photo and I removed 20% of them, I wouldn’t be removing 20% overall. I’d merely be removing 20% of the 30%, which is 6%. So, my total yellow color tones after this adjustment would be 24%.
Conversely, adjusting color in absolute terms is much more straightforward. If I make a 20% adjustment, I get a 20% adjustment. Just remember, Relative is much more subtle while Absolute is much more powerful. You can easily flip back and forth between the two to see which setting you prefer.
If you’d like to learn more about adjustment layers in Photoshop, please take a look at these posts:
Well there you have it. A post about how to add or remove color tones from an image using either Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop. I hope I gave you some insight into this topic. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!