Our Photography Courses Blog

Getting the colours right in your photographs

Getting the colours right in your photographs is something we don’t think about until it goes wrong. Most of our pictures were perfectly well in the auto mode and we are perfectly happy with the results.

However, there are a few shots where things tend to go very wrong indeed – and to make matters worse new cameras are worse at this than old ones. This is the kind of picture that often goes wrong, taken on this weekend’s photography course at Henley-on-Thames.


The camera has a device to fix strange lighting – the white balance system. There is an article on the subject in the Ask PMS section of our website. Basically, the camera adjusts the colouring picture when it thinks the colours are slightly wrong. This is usually what you want – when you go inside a building and the lighting becomes a bit yellow with light bulb light or green with fluorescent lighting, the camera can adjust for this to make sure that the scene looks about right visually.

However, in the real world this may not be what you want. Sunset and sunrise pictures are often very yellow and the camera misinterprets this as yellow tungsten light bulb lighting and reduces the yellow colour. Some autumn colour pictures are so full of green that the camera thinks that it is green fluorescent lighting and reduces the green. In both these cases the camera will produce a picture that is similar to what you wanted, but just not quite right in terms of the colour. Newer cameras are more sensitive to white balance, so do a better job of photographing your friends in the right colours inside a pub, but often worse job of the sunset outside.

It’s a very easy thing to fix, even if you don’t want to get too involved with settings on your camera. You will find that if you change the white balance on the camera colours look very different. Auto white balance, although it works fine most of the time will give lots of problems on scenes like the one above. So our advice is leave the camera on auto but don’t be surprised if it fails horribly in certain circumstances – and when it does you pick a specific white balance – cloudy light on autumn trees, sunny light on that yellow building, or whatever. Doing this can make a huge difference to how your pictures look and help you get the colours right in your photographs.

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