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Finishing Techniques: Look Closely for Color Casts

As you work with HDR images, it’s often easy to pick up a visible color cast. In fact, just about any image can pick up unwanted color in the highlights or shadows that can be removed for a more polished image.

strip

The photo above is a seven bracket series was first post processed in Photomatix using the raw files. The shortest image was 1/3200 seconds was the longest exposure was 1.3 seconds. I decided to experiment with long exposures and busy crowds to really capture the energy of the scene. That and the place I was shooting didn’t allow for tripods so I “embraced the fluid nature” of the shot.

castcu

The image picked up a strong color cast in the white areas of the original photo. To combat this I added a Vibrance adjustment layer to pull down the bluish tones in Photoshop.

vibrance_adjust

In order to keep too much of the image from being affected, I isolated the adjustment with a layer mask. The white areas receive the adjustment, while the black areas are ignored. You can learn more about this technique here.

The mask effectively keeps the color adjustment isolated. Once the image was improved, I followed up with a second adjustment. A Curves adjustment is the easiest way to improve contrast handpick up any stray color.

curves_adjust

This second adjustment also used a mask. This time a bit tighter so the adjustment was applied to the primary building. I painted the mask using both the Quick Selection and Brush tools.

The adjustment itself was completely automatic. By simply Option or Alt clicking on the Auto button in the Curves adjustment layer, you can let Photoshop fix problems for you. This brings up the Auto Color Correction options. I find the easiest method is to use the Find Dark & Light Colors which improves the black and white areas. Checking the Snap Neutral Midtones option removes the remaining color casts.

AutoCurves

The resulting image has strong contrast and all color casts removed. While the adjustments are small, it definitely improves the overall effect.

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For more HDR techniques, be sure to check out our HDR Learning Center.

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