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How To Manage Challenging Color Casts

Published: 09/07/2020

“Can you please recommend a way to get at nasty color casts? I don’t know if it’s my camera but I tend to have a lot of my shots turning out with this ugly, dingy-looking green. I’d appreciate any suggestions.”

Brandy, from Louisville, KY

Thanks Brandy. That’s a tough question because I’m not sure you’ve shared enough info for me to give you a precise answer. There are several things that can contribute to color casts, including your camera-settings. I think that might be the easiest starting point. Have you inadvertently changed your “picture style” settings? Also, various lighting conditions and even the time of day you’re shooting at will impact color. It would’ve been helpful to have gotten a couple of additional bits of info from you. First, are the color casts you’re experiencing showing before or after you’ve corrected for white balance (WB)? Second, is that dingy green cast you’ve asked about evident throughout the entire photo or only on certain parts of the shot (i.e., on white kitchen cabinets and island)? There are some different ways to go about this and I’m sure that others in our community will throw their two-cents in regarding their own preferred methods.

I’ll start by stating the obvious, and that’s regardless of whether you’re working in Lightroom or Photoshop. Color correction begins with setting the WB properly. As I’m sure you’re aware, shooting in RAW will give you much more control over proper color in your shots. I’m assuming that you’re already doing this as part of your workflow, so I won’t say anything more about this. If you’re still seeing that green cast after doing your best in setting WB, then there are other things you can do. 

I know that some people in our community whom I’ve talked to about pesky color casts, tackle them by using the "Select Color" tool within Photoshop (PS). If you’ve never used this before, Brandy, I think you might find it helpful. When dealing with a given color issue (in your case, green), on a new layer in PS, go to “Select > Color Range”. This will bring up a dialogue box and your cursor should be turned into an eyedropper selection tool automatically. 

Within the dialogue box, set the "Select" field at the top, to “Sampled Colors”. Set the "Fuzziness" slider to somewhere between 40-50 and the "Selection Preview" field at the bottom to “None”. Then, just move the eyedropper tool over a part of the actual photo that’s showing the color that you want to remove and click on it. If there’s a second color cast or perhaps a lighter/darker shade of the first color that you picked, you can remove that additional color by holding down the "shift" key and clicking on that second color. Either way, when you’ve finished your selection(s), click OK. You will see those “marching ants” on your photo. This indicates that all the spots in the photo where your selected color(s) are situated have been selected. From there, open up a Hue/Saturation layer and move the saturation slide to the left a bit and/or move the brightness slider to the right a bit. Either way, adjust to taste.

Recently, I found a YouTube video from "PixImperfect" that describes how to use the "Divide" blending mode to tackle tough color casts. The technique is covered in the first four minutes of the clip. I found it really interesting and even though the teacher is using it to edit portraiture, I think it can also be used for our work.

Anyway Brandy, I hope you find this post useful and that it helps with your color cast issues. I’m sure others in the community will offer their suggestions, too.