Why are the Colors in My Photo Weird? A Beginner’s Guide

There are times when you look at a photo and wonder why the colors are all weird. And if you’re a beginner, then you’re probably sitting there and taking the photo again and again to fix the problem. This is typical of human nature: trying the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. But the weird colors in your photos can be fixed fairly easily. We’re going to tell you how.

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Understanding White Balance

The idea behind why your colors are so off is because of white balance. This is what a camera (and your eyes) does to make sense of a scene and understand colors. When you look at strawberries on a dining room table with window lighting, they look really red. But if they’re under the same lighting as a street lamp, they’ll look completely different. And that’s what’s happening here. 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron Fujifilm Velvia Story 3.51 40s6400

Granted, on top of this, camera manufacturers tend to put their own little bits of color science into things. Nikon tends to render skin tones green; which is great if you’re from the Mediterranean. Sony tends to skew things purple. Canon is warmer than others. And Fujifilm takes after classic film from past eras.

How to Fix It

If you’re using your brand new camera, you should realize that your white balance is typically set to auto. With the exposure preview setting on, you can scroll between different white balances. The most common one is daylight, which translates to a specific kelvin temperature–ie, how white balance is measured. But sometimes you don’t want the daylight look and you want your photos to be more blue, or somewhere in between. 

Brittany Smith The Phoblographer Fujifilm GF 35 70mm 0603 Image Sample unedited

Thankfully, camera manufacturers have named their white balance profiles accordingly to help you figure out the situation. The problem here though is that most people still can’t totally figure that out. But exposure preview settings can help you easily. 

Our staff prefers to white balance in-camera when we can because we then need to do so much less work in post-production. That, and it helps us set the entire tone and mood for the photo shoot. 

Or, You Can Fix it In Post Production

The traditional way of fixing those weird colors is to just fix it in post-production. We consider this lazy, but it’s the industry standard for better or worse. If you’re using programs like Lightroom or Capture One, you can mode the color temperature slider to get the colors that you want. Portraits often look nicer when they’re warmer. Some food looks better cooler and more neutral. 

Brittany Smith The Phoblographer Fujifilm GF 35 70mm 1161 Image Sample unedited

If those terms are confusing to you, think about warmer lighting looking like a street lamp or like the orange sunset. Cooler lighting is just like the office lights or the white lights in a public bathroom. If the idea of cooler lighting annoys you then that’s just fine. You can set it up accordingly.

Some camera have a manual white balance setting, but in this day and age, we consider that to be a complete waste of time unless you’re going to get it exactly right in-camera to your own likings. The manual white balance setting often gives you what the camera thinks you want instead of what you actually want.

For more tips for beginners, check out our Useful Photography Tips section.

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