Making the Sky Purple
Fuji X100 | 1/240 sec, f/8, ISO 800
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
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!