Color Correction

Sometimes WordPress is a pain. I just worked for an hour on this post and it was deleted. So, here we go again.

The other day I sent my portfolio to the photo editor of our daily paper for advice and critique and possibly a stringer position. He had some really helpful advice on portfolio presentation and how to improve my photos. He said that he could see that many of my photos hadn’t been toned properly. They needed color corrections.

I agreed. I haven’t had much practice with tonal corrections in classes I’ve taken. I assumed (wrongly) that it was more about the actual photograph than mastering Photoshop at a newspaper because editors would correct them to their specific standards. Well now I know better. “Your work needs to show proficiency with Photoshop and other photo editing software,” he said. So, I’ve been scouring the internet for tutorials and reading my Photoshop book religiously to figure out how to properly tone a photo.

I found that the biggest thing when correcting you pictures is to set the white and black points. I knew how to do this, kind of, but now I think I’ve got it down and it will be a part of my regular editing routine. ( I’m not looking forward to going back and correcting hundreds of photos, but it’s good practice I guess.)



First, set your black and white balance points.

Super easy to do, once you realize what it is you’re doing. Pull up the histogram on your

photo in Photoshop. There will be three little eyedropper tools to the left that correspond to three little slider tools under the histogram. These are your white, black, and neutral grey settings.

Setting your white balance tells Photoshop that a certain point is the standard for pure white in your picture. Same with the black point—pure black.

A great way to find these points is to use the option key. Hold down the option key while sliding your white point slider to the left. The photo will turn black and the whitest parts of your photographs will begin to appear. You can use your white eyedropper tool to select this area and set the white point. The same goes for the black point in your photo. Holding down the option key and sliding the black point slider to the right will turn your screen white and reveal the blackest part of you photo. The farther you slide each slider, the more your photo will be displayed and the more dark/white pixels will show up, but we just want the whitest and blackest parts, so we want to select the first pixels to show up with either slider.

Second, set your neutral grey point.

This was by far the most difficult thing to figure out because there are so many ways to do it. I used the DPS tutorial for setting negative grey.

“Neutralizing a color cast can be one of the most difficult jobs in post-production. The problem I most often have is realizing that my image has a color cast, but not being able to identify which color is causing the cast! Is it magenta or red? Blue or cyan?
This simple tutorial solves this problem by finding neutral gray in the image, thereby removing the need to guess the color. In order for this trick to work however, your image MUST contain 50% gray tone somewhere in the image; otherwise the color correction will be off.  Read more:

Basically the way to do this is to create a separate layer with 50% gray fill. Next, set the layer to “Difference”. Then use your neutral balance eyedropper and select the blackest pixel in the image. This will set your grey balance and eliminate any color casts, even ones you can’t see! The final step is to delete the Difference layer you just made.

The tutorial page has great photos and a step-by-step explanation on how to set your neutral grey color. It is very easy to understand.

I hope this helped you all out there. If anyone has more helpful tips and tricks on toning your images please share with the rest of us!