Help me fix my wedding photos!
September 27, 2008 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Help me fix my broken wedding photos - need to remove the orange factor

I've finally decided that I need to work on putting together a wedding book (I got married more than five years ago!). We didn't have a photographer, and mostly took pictures using the point and shoot digitial camera we had at the time. Most of the reception photos turned out orange because of the candlelight. A lot of them are somewhat grainy. IIRC it was a 4mp Pentax, shot in JPG. Is there any way I can make these photos look semi-ok? I know that there is not a lot I can do with them, but even if I can can clean up a bit for printing that would be an improvement.

Almost every photo has a strong orange cast. Here's an example. Any suggestions for settings to try in Lightroom or Photoshop?
posted by wingless_angel to Technology (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Fiddling with it in Photoshop, I used the "auto levels" option and then turned the saturation down to -25. I also used "blur more" and it helped with the graininess. It looks somewhat better.
posted by EarBucket at 6:17 PM on September 27, 2008

Best answer: If you have Photoshop...

The super-quick: Image -> Adjustments -> Levels (or just "Ctrl+L"), click "Auto." It got me fairly close for the sample you posted.

Image -> Adjustments -> Variations will give you more control over colors. The Fine/Coarse adjustment helps when you get to the point where the adjustments are too drastic.

Someone else might be able to walk you through automating this as a batch action. I don't do much of that.

A note: save these separately, don't overwrite the originals. I've "post-processed" images, thought they looked better, and later on realized that I did a pretty shoddy job and lost some of the detail in the originals. Always keep your unadjusted, crappy originals undisturbed.
posted by fogster at 6:18 PM on September 27, 2008

LOL, iPhoto that comes for free with every Mac can do it for you and you can just copy and paste the setting you like. No need to spend several hundreds of dollars on a application that you need hours if not weeks of training just barely to master! - iPhoto will also just automagically make a copy of the original, so you don't even have to think about making backups, which are needed if you do spend time using the pro-stuff.
posted by KimG at 6:29 PM on September 27, 2008

Photoshop Elements (comes with many cameras) has an actual color cast remover, if I remember correctly. Might be faster/easier for you. Otherwise, go into Photoshop and play with levels or variations.

Remember that everytime you save as JPEG, you lose pixels, so if you're going to work on an image more than once (and resave) work in PSD or can convert to JPEG for prints later.
posted by availablelight at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2008

If you don't have photoshop, or you find it too confusing, you can do the same thing in Picasa, google's free alternative. Click "I'm feeling lucky" when you load the photo. It isn't quite as advanced, but it'll do the trick here. Download it.
posted by pantagrool at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2008

If you don't have Photoshop, Paint.NET is free and has an auto-level function too. Also, that sample had a fair amount of noise in it and Paint.NET has a "Reduce Noise" filter.
posted by XMLicious at 6:34 PM on September 27, 2008

A photographers trick btw, is to turn the photos into black and white. That will make them look much better even though you have a lot of grain from the high ISO-setting that your camera could not cope with. But do work on a set of copies, so you can always return to the original!

Also remember to crop the unimportant bits away, like the bottleneck on the bottom of the example. A small thing that you almost don't see, if you already think you know the image well.
posted by KimG at 6:35 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you find the photos too noisy, I recommend Noise Ninja, it was worth every penny for me.
posted by iamabot at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2008

Best answer: A quick and easy way to get rid of the orange color cast in Photoshop:

Go to: Image -> Adjustments -> Match Color, then in the popup, click the Neutralize box. If this overcorrects the color cast, use the Fade slider above the Neutralize box to adjust the image's color to taste. Also, in Match Color, you can lighten up your images a bit using the Luminance slider.

To further lighten your images if they are too dark:

Go to: Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, and adjust the right and middle sliders on the histogram in popup.

With lighting problems, you also might get lucky by just going to Image -> Adjustments -> Auto Levels and letting Photoshop take care of the problem for you.

For grain problems, you can try Photoshop's default noise control tools under Filter -> Noise -> Reduce noise. This can rein in your grain problems, but it also zaps a lot of the detail. For much more sophisticated noise control, you might want to check out a great Photoshop plugin called Noise Ninja. It's not free, but it can work wonders on your images.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2008

Best answer: This is a quick-and-dirty first cut. There's lots of room for improvement but it proves there's enough color info left that it's worth the effort (which I doubted at first glance). Rough outline of what I did:

- Add a Curves layer;
- White eyedropper on the most blown-out "actually white" item in the photo, in this case the brightest part of the sleeve at lower left;
- Gray eyedropper on a darker neutral area elsewhere, in this case on the part of her left collar where there's some shadow;
- Lightened things up in general, with two control points: Input 0 > Output 15 and Input 121 > Output 165.

- Add an HSL layer;
- Edit: Reds;
- Eyedropper on his left cheek;
- Dragged the color range a little wider into the yellows;
- Lightness +23.

Without the white blouse, it may be harder.
posted by Lazlo at 7:02 PM on September 27, 2008

FWIW, if they're all the same kind of orange, once you're happy with the fix on one picture, you can select multiple photos in Lightroom and then "sync settings" to apply the settings to the entire selection. It will keep the mood consistent from picture to picture for album use.
posted by smalls at 7:10 PM on September 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for these suggestions! I do have access to Photoshop and Lightroom (and iPhoto etc...) so I will try those first.
posted by wingless_angel at 9:22 PM on September 27, 2008

1. If you want to try the suggestions above without the high buy-in, here is free Photoshop alternative. I haven't used it, but the office geek says it's comparable.

2. If you are not that ambitious yourself, on Worth1000, people offer simple (and not simple) Photoshopping jobs as contests, and the prize/pay is stupid low, like $300. People will take a stab at it primarily because they love to Shop.

3. I too love to Shop, but for what its worth -- I find the grainy orange intimate and charming. It is flattering to your subjects, and is an actual record of the soft glow of candlelight you chose for your wedding, not to mention your original anti-bridezilla stance on the pictures. I'd keep that going, and keep the pictures as is.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:26 PM on September 27, 2008

Methylviolet, the office geek is wrong. The Gimp looks a little like Photoshop, and does some of the same things in similar ways, but is missing huge chunks of the feature set. Most of the steps in my very, very basic cleanup description above aren't even supported.
posted by Lazlo at 11:13 PM on September 27, 2008

Certainly there are features of Photoshop missing from The Gimp, but curves and layers and HSL editing aren't amongst them:

Photo Touch Up and Enhancement in The Gimp.

A basic curves tutorial.
posted by galaksit at 6:58 AM on September 28, 2008

Playing around with these a bit, it looks like the problem is that there's no skin tone information in the blue channel. I found that converting to CMYK (which leaves you with information to work with in each of the channels) and then adjusting levels and curves gave me better results than working in RGB. Working in Lab mode also looks promising, but Lab is pretty unintuitive. I actually got the best results by working with two copies of the image, one adjusted with TBoneMcCool's approach (starting with match color with the neutralize option) and the other adjusted in CMYK, and then mixing the two images (about 50% blending, adjusted to taste).

Also, for a picture that needs this much adjustment, I'd recommend working in 16 bits per channel, since otherwise you'll end up with huge gaps in your histogram.
posted by klausness at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2008

Certainly there are features of Photoshop missing from The Gimp, but curves and layers and HSL editing aren't amongst them

Yes, the gimp has curves and layers, but what it doesn't have is adjustment layers, which allow you to put image adjustments (including curves) in separate layers. This allows you to make editable adjustments in their own layers without changing the actual image layer. Once you start using adjustment layers, it's hard to imagine working without them.
posted by klausness at 8:42 AM on September 28, 2008

Picasa may be the fastest to use. I didn't read all the posts here but I think you may be getting some bad information. It's not candlelight that's making your pictures orange, it's the tungsten bulbs (light bulbs) unless the room was only lit by candles. You have a pretty standard tungsten cast thing going on. Very easy to fix. I believe picasa has a little eyedropper thing you can click on to fix the cast. You can also do this really easily in lightroom. In lightroom, once you get it right, you can cntrl+shift+c and then v those settings to other photos. No problem. Just find something very white in at least one picture, and put the eye dropper on that.

If the pictures are 8 bit, there is no reason to go to 16 bit. These pictures are never going to look AMAZING but you can definitely make them better. Honestly though, they are not that bad. You don't have a ton of information to work with here, so I might just leave them as they are.
posted by sully75 at 9:43 AM on September 28, 2008

Best answer: Two problems here I think. (1) colour cast and (2) excess saturation setting in digital camera. In photoshop:

1) Colour cast
Enlarge image to 400%. Position so you can see cuff of white blouse (extreme left).
Open Levels. Double click on white eyedropper (the right-hand one).
Set "L" of Lab space to 90. Click OK
Move white eyedropper over the highlight on the white sleeve, right next to the slightly ruffy bit.
Click on highlight.
Click OK.
This should make the white blouse white and adjust all other colours accordingly, ie get rid of colour cast.

2) Saturation
Set saturation slider to minus 33 (my taste)

If other photos don't have a bright white reference point, you can save the procedure on the first photo as an action and apply to later photos with the same lighting.
posted by londongeezer at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2008

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