Rid yourself of unwanted colours and tints in your photographs using Adobe Camera Raw, including using the new three-way colour grading wheels.
What is a Colour Cast or Tint and How Are They Caused?
A colour cast or tint is an unwanted colour in your photograph. This could be because the white balance setting on your camera wasn’t quite right making the colour "temperature" of the image off. This might manifest as a tint over the whole image (usually yellow or blue), or just parts of the image being affected, like skin tones, for example.
Tints or casts might also be down to ambient light or flash causing neutrally coloured objects to take on the colour of their surroundings.
How to Avoid Colour Casts When Photographing
There are some things you can do to avoid getting casts or tints in your photos:
- Avoid brightly coloured clothing which can tint skin tones
- Test which directions or angles you can photograph your subject that will help you avoid a cast
- Adjust your white balance in camera
- Use a grey card to give you a neutral reference point (this is something to help you out when editing, later)
- Try filters to neutralise colours
Sometimes a cast is unavoidable though, so here are some methods for fixing or removing colour casts and tints using Adobe Camera Raw.
How to Fix Tints and Casts in Adobe Camera Raw: 3 Quick Methods
Here’s a picture of a duck that I've deliberately given a yellow cast.
Method 1: White Balance and Tint
Your first stop will likely be White Balance: Temperature and Tint, which you’ll find in the Basic menu. Adjusting these will make a change to your whole image, which is great if the colour cast affects everything.
If the cast is too yellow/warm, move the Temperature slider to blue/cool and adjust Tint to suit.
There’s a colour dropped next to the White Balance drop down box and click on a neutral (white/grey) colour. The problem here is that you might not really have a neutral colour available to you, but if I click on one of the duck’s white feathers you can see the result from that is quite good:
It does suck almost all of the warmth out of the image though, and some of the yellow tones would be nice to keep, so this might be a good place to start with correcting a tint but you’d have to do further adjustments to get a well-balanced image.
Method 2: Colour Mixer
Your tint or cast might not always look terrible and you might actually want to just adjust it rather than remove it. In Colour Mixer you can target specific colours, shift them to other hues, make them lighter or darker, and decide how saturated you want them to be.
Back to our yellow duck, if I use Colour Mixer to target the oranges and yellows – the prevalent colours in my cast – and adjust them to reduce their saturation and then make further small adjustments to the Hue and Luminance, I can reduce the saturated wash over the image while still keeping the warm tones.
Method 3: Colour Grading Wheels
The three-way colour wheels in Adobe Camera Raw can be one of the simplest ways to fix casts and tints, though you do then limit yourself if you want to do some actual colour grading on top of the corrective fix, as you’re sort of doing both at the same time!
The great thing about the Colour Grading wheels is that they’re split into three sections: Midtones, Shadows and Highlights which gives you more flexibility about where and how you’re targeting your cast adjustments.
Although the whole image has a yellow tint, that works quite nicely on the highlights like the pebbles in the water and the duck’s beak, so it would be nice to keep those while losing some of the other harsh yellow and orange tones from elsewhere.
Tackle each wheel separately, working on the desired hue and then how saturated you want that to be. Here are each of my wheels after adjustments on the duck image:
Let's compare the results all at once.
Although they're slightly fuzzier like this because of the web sizing, it's easier to see the differences in each effect when the pictures are grouped like this. There's no right or wrong when it comes to fixing a colour cast, so which method you use will depend on your work flow and the result that you want.
'Auto' tools usually do a great job because they're designed for one thing, and in this case the colour dropper (top right image) certainly does remove the yellow cast the most effectively and provides a good starting point. For me, the two methods with the best results are adjusting the white balance combined with tint (top left image) and using the colour wheels (bottom right).
The colour wheels give you much more control as you're separating the tonal ranges and can choose the colour to offset and the strength of that, across each tonal range. The only issue with this method is that you're correcting and colour grading at the same time, and unlike video editing suites like Premiere Pro which have a set of wheels for each, Adobe Camera Raw doesn't. Still, it gives you a really effective way to adjust your colours easily and in a more targeted way than any of the others do—though you can use some of the other options with an adjustment brush for a more finely-tuned result—and if your photo is in need of rescuing then a small hit in the flexibility of colour grading is probably a small price to pay.
More Adobe Camera Raw Tutorials
- PhotographyHow to Merge and Edit High Dynamic Range Photos in Adobe Camera RawMarie Gardiner
- PhotographyHow to Colour Grade Photos Using 3-Way Wheels in Adobe Camera Raw (Free)Marie Gardiner
- PhotographyHow to Use Texture, Clarity, Dehaze, Vibrance and Saturation in Adobe Camera RawMarie Gardiner
- PhotographyHow to Use Look-Up Tables (LUTs) for Instant Photo Effects in Adobe Camera RawMarie Gardiner
About This Page
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner is a writer and photographer from the North East of England. After gaining her degree in Film and Media, Marie worked in the media industry, before leaving to set up the business she runs with her partner: Lonely Tower Film & Media. As well as writing about visual practices like photography and video, Marie is also the author of Sunderland Industrial Giant (The History Press, 2017) and Secret Sunderland (Amberley Publishing 2019). Her photographic work focuses on landscapes and industrial ruins, particularly those of the North Pennines as she continues to work on her long-form documentary project, Changing Landscapes.
Jackson Couse edited this post.
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