Have you ever noticed how sometimes you’ll shoot something and it will come out with a funny color cast? Maybe it was a mixed light situation (daylight and florescent, for instance) and your camera had to choose between two at-odds color temperatures. Or maybe you were shooting in blueish open shade and it looked okay to your eye but now the images look really, really blue. What to do? The answer is to tone the photograph in Photoshop; to know where to start, you need to set up your Info palette and use the Eyedropper tool.
First you need to properly configure your Info palette. This will give you clues about the overall density in different areas of your image (densitometer settings) and tell you something about the current color breakdown of your image, very helpful if you’re trying to correct a color cast.
First go to Window>Info to open up your Info palette. Click the small triangle in the upper right hand corner of the palette box. Choose ‘Panel Options’ from the list of choices. This will open up your Info Panel Options dialogue box.
For the First Color Readout , change this pulldown to ‘Grayscale.’ This will give you an accurate and useful densitometer reading as your first readout when looking over an image. Click OK to close this box.
Now select the Eyedropper from the Photoshop Tools group (if it’s not already selected). Take the eyedropper and use it to find something in your image that should be a neutral color. Grey is best although you can also use white or black. With the Info Panel open on your screen, you can now see the CMYK balance percentages for your current photograph. In this example image, my Cyan(blue) is much too high, relative to my Magenta and Yellow numbers. This tells me right away that I need to adjust the overall Cyan down.
Open Color Balance (Control/Apple B, or Image>Adjustments>Color Balance). Make sure you have the Preview box checked. Push the Yellow/Blue slider towards Yellow and the Cyan/Red slider towards Red. (I always start with the default Midtones, but sometimes it’s useful to also adjust Shadows and Highlights here.) You can see your results in the Info Palette, giving you an effective ‘Before/After’ readout in percentages as you make the changes. You want the CMY percentages to be closer together for a good neutral tone, although it’s not necessary to get too literal here. Make the changes and watch your results as you go. You’ll find the right balance by using these tools and judging your results.
That’s it! It’s really quite simple, but very few Photoshop users understand how to use this basic, fundamental tool. Give it a try, I promise you’ll see better control and toning in your results.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog