Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Making the Sky Purple

with 11 comments


Fuji X100 | 1/240 sec, f/8, ISO 800

Recently I posted a photo of Suki on Flickr that made some wonder, “hey, how’d you get the sky so purple in that shot!?”

Some sort of post-processing trick perhaps? Or maybe the sky really WAS a surreal, deep purple that night? The answer is neither actually. It started with a simple white-balance adjustment in my camera.

Shooting RAW does allow you to make color corrections in post, but depending on your camera, you already have a ton of control over the color of your images while you’re actually shooting. Besides providing the typical white balance presets that can be selected at the camera depending on the situation (daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, flourescent etc), many cameras allow you to further customize white balance by shifting it along blue/amber, green/magenta axes. Below is an example of the white balance shift menus from Nikon (left) and Canon (right).


Want your selected white balance to be a bit warmer? Add some amber in this menu. Cooler? Add some blue. Greener or magentaer more magenta? You get the picture.

My Fuji X100 presents the white balance shift menu differently, along the red/cyan, blue/yellow axes.  So, to add amber warmth to a white balance setting in the x100′s menu, you have to add some +Red and -Yellow steps, instead of just simply adding amber like you can in Nikon and Canon DSLRs. Me no like.


See how purple the image at the top of the post appears? I achieved that look by shifting my auto-white balance as magenta as possible, which on my X100 was +9 Red and +9 Blue (or on Canon and Nikon, just shift on the magenta axis…come on, Fuji!!!)

Ok, so now daylight is thrown into magenta, but there’s a problem that comes with doing this. If you take a picture of someone with this white balance trim, they’re also going to come out purple! What to do?


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Take a look at the two images above. It’s actually the same RAW file from my X100, converted in Lightroom 3. The one on the left is the output from my camera with the magenta bias and the one on the right is corrected. How? Simply by moving the hue slider in Lightroom towards green until the colors look more natural.  The green corrects the magenta cast, and vice versa.

So if green corrects magenta and you’re in a magenta-biased white balance, couldn’t you light your subject with a green light source to preserve a more natural skin tone? Yup:


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/4, ISO 200 (sb-900 bare camera left)

Notice that my happy volunteer here is lit with what appears to be much more natural looking color compared to the purple daylight you see behind her. This is the same magenta biased white balance set at the camera that I described above, with a bare strobe on camera left lighting my subject.  But here’s the important part: I stacked two green gels on the strobe to compensate for the magenta cast. It’s like correcting the white balance on JUST my subject. Without the green gels, I’d just be hitting my subject with more magenta light.

So now I have a surreal, magenta background with a color corrected subject. This was the method behind the shot I took of Suki at the dog park:


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200

I started at sunset with an underexposed background, magenta biased white balance…


Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Add Suki in the mix, light her with the green gelled strobe…


Fuji X100 |  1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

…Wait for her to give me a better pose…


Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

…Almost there…


Fuji X100 |  1/500 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Perfect! Now get out there and experiment with your color controls. Don’t forget to break rules while you’re at it!

Also, just an update on Suki’s health. She had a horrible day yesterday with her allergies but is doing much better today, She’s becoming more playful again which is a very good sign. Thanks for all your well wishes for Suki!

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

11 Responses

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  1. Sorry honies, I was trying to look “too cool for school” and I just ended up looking annoyed. Sorry! Great blog post, though!! Suki looks so funny when her ears go backward. =)

    Bridget

    June 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

  2. Get well soon Suki, awesome shots as always dude! :)

    Felix Lim

    June 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm

  3. Hug for Suki! Another great tip J!

    Wowie

    June 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm

  4. you do such awesome tutorials and reviews! i don’t know if i’ve ever seen that type of axis on my canon, but i will have to doublecheck.

    btw, when i saw this suki/purple sky photo before, i thought the sky was naturally that color! i was in daly city and when the fog rolled in at sunset, the sky turned this color (the camera replicated it pretty authentically): http://www.flickr.com/photos/pink_scarf/5253519780/in/set-72157617537136265 (sooc except for sharpening).

    Jacqueline

    June 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    • Whoa, that IS really purple! Great catch of such an interesting sky color. You shoot with a 5D right? If so, you should be able to find this custom white balance screen in your red shooting menu under WB SHIFT/BKT. Check it out!

      Jonathan

      June 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

  5. I love your posts. You talked me into a Oly E-PL2 and a Pan 20mm1.8. I love it. Your desert pics were nice. And I hope your best friend gets well soon. BTW, my wife is my model too.
    Best Regards

    Howard Tyree

    June 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm

  6. Great post Jonathan. Enjoy reading your detailed tutorials and reviews as always.

    Howie

    June 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

  7. I swear you can write a book of tutorials and photography by itself. Fuji really should endorse you now! I hope they find you! :) Awesome tutorial and explanations :)

    Jasmine Lee

    July 1, 2011 at 11:55 am

  8. great post. Are you using dynamic range extension on any of your shots? or are they pretty much out of camera jpeg. I’m days away from getting the x-100. Can’t wait!. Nice images!

    Dan Chung

    October 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    • Dan,

      When I shoot JPEG, I leave dynamic range on auto. Works great for me! In this post, I shot the images in RAW, as I always do when shooting off-camera flash.

      Jonathan

      October 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm


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