Color blindness keeps those who suffer with it from seeing accurate color. The most common type is red-green color blindness.

The opening photograph shows the normal colors on the left and what a red-green colorblind person sees. The blues in the photo are almost the same as the normal one. The rest of the color suffers.

Before going into the color blindness of a monitor, I want to take a look at what the most common form of this affliction looks like and what causes it.

Color blindness may be genetic

The cones on the retina behind our eyes control color vision. The three types of cone cells react to different wavelengths of light — short, medium and higher wavelengths. This works because the cones have photo pigments to see all possible colors. If some of the pigments are missing, we experience colorblindness.

Males are most likely to have a form of inherited color blindness because the X chromosome carries the ability to perceive color. The additional X chromosome in females can compensate for a genetic issue with the rods. Color blindness might mean seeing fewer colors or with less sensitivity or both. Sometimes it means that certain colors aren’t seen at all.

Physical causes of colorblindness

Several things in the physical world can contribute to becoming partially or completely colorblind. Damage to the eye — physical or chemical — damage to the optic nerve along with damage to the brain where it processes color are all sources of this problem.

Drugs like hydroxychloroquine — a malaria preventative that had been thought to help with COVID-19 — along with styrene and organic solvents can cause color blindness. Cloudy eyes, cataracts and advancing age contribute to color blindness.

Red-green color blindness

When the photo pigments in the red cones and the green ones don’t work partially or completely the result is red-green color blindness. This is the most common kind of color blindness. About 8% of men and 0.4% of women have a form of red-green color blindness.

Color blindness and photography

The perception of color by any photographer is critical to making impactful images. On the other hand, products being sold by e-commerce requires very accurate color. The colors of the towels have to match or compliment those in a bathroom or kitchen. Coca-Cola red must only be Coke red. No other shade will do. The same thing goes for matching a T-shirt from Givenchy with tights from Wolford and a pleated mini in racy red from Calvin Klein.

Imagine looking at the photo below (left) and seeing it (right) as someone with color blindness.

Color blindness and photographyColor blindness and photography

The problem is that if someone is colorblind they might not know that what they see is not what most of the rest of the world sees. What is “true” color? That is the question.

An uncalibrated monitor is colorblind

There is a kind of color blindness that a lot of photographers have and haven’t a clue that they have it. Consider the uncalibrated computer monitor. Looking at colors displayed by an uncalibrated monitor is the digital equivalent of experiencing color blindness. Any color correction done with a monitor that has not been calibrated is just like being colorblind.

When a monitor is calibrated it can be relied upon to produce accurate colors. When it isn’t, the person using it is effectively colorblind. An uncalibrated monitor can have its user creating photos that are dark if it is too bright or way too bright if it is not putting out enough light. If the monitor is biased toward red, the result will be an image with a cyan or greenish-blue cast.

While someone with red-green color blindness is stuck with it, monitors can be cured with simple tools.