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I'm pretty much a beginner photographer. I just point and shoot with auto settings and I have no idea how to tweak photos with photo editing software.

I took a photo which can be found here:

From "http://jpgmag.com/photos/3280068"

The problem is that it has too much blue which I guess is from all the snow.

I have colour vision deficiency as well, which means I find it really hard to tell the difference between some colours, so it makes it particularly hard for me — especially with blues.

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It would help to know what tools you have at your disposal for post processing. Do you have Photoshop, iPhoto, the camera manufacturer's software? –  Steve Ross May 22 '12 at 22:28
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And did you shoot in raw or not? –  Pete May 23 '12 at 9:29
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Personally, I would say the white balance is rather spot-on for that photograph. Snow is "white"...but it is usually a cool white, even to our eyes. Adjusting it such that it is a pure neutral white would change the overall tone of the photo...and lessen the "feeling" of cold you kind of get from it now. You might even be able to improve the atmosphere of the photo by making it ever so slightly bluer than it is now.... –  jrista May 24 '12 at 2:16

6 Answers 6

A shift in the blue color prompts me to think of white balance right away.

Using lightroom 3 or 4 you can adjust the white balance in order to compensate the blue tone of the photo, it also works for the yellow tone that you might get. You might as well se references as temperature minding this, the bluer tone meaning it's "colder" and "warmer" for the yellow tone.

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There are several things you can do to that picture. It would be best of course to have the raw files. Then you should be able to make reasonable adjustments but still use the full dynamic range and resolution of the output format. I used my own software for this, but these are all ordinary operations any photo post-processing software should be able to do.

Here is what we are starting with:

First, I let the software find the darkest and brightest points and set them to black and white, respectively. Actually to be precise, it finds the dakest and lightest values in every block of 4x4 pixels average.

You were right, the brightest spot was definitely blueish. The darkest is (.031, .058, .094) and the brightest (.878 .916, .955). The snow in the foreground isn't the brightest spot, a cloud at top is. Clouds are not good for color ballance, so we'll try to make sure the snow is white, or actually a shade of gray near white. If we made the foreground snow full white, the highlights would be lost at the top. In some cases that's OK, but let's preserve them in this case.

A reasonable size rectangle in the untouched forground snow has the average (.793, .840, .895). If we make that 95% white, then there is still a little room for the brighter spots near the top. The important point though is that we're taking the color ballance from the foreground snow by declaring it a shade of gray.

The color ballance is now solved, but I see something else I don't like. Note how the near trees look almost totally black. There was some detail visible there before, but only because you essentially had a gray offset added to everything. A better way to fix this is to leave the darkest spot black, but bring the intensity up more quickly at the low end. In this case I used my brighten adjustment with a factor of 0.8. I am sure other software has similar things, but probably called something a bit different.

Note how there is now some detail in the near trees but the darkest spots are still black. A side effect of this is to make the trees in the center look more distant. This is because they are farther away and more haze was between them and the camera. This added a black offset to them. The brighten adjustment was applied globally. It lifts the brightness of near-dark things, which these trees were. The haze was real and this picture is showing it. Only you can decide whether that's what you want though. If not, you'll need to to some selective masking. Global adjustments don't work well on haze. Haze also tends to be blueish. If it were me, I'd probably go for having it make the depth of the picture more apparent, but this is getting into asthetics and no longer a technical adjustment like fixing the color ballance.

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The correction that lighten more the dark tones is a logarithmic curve, which compresses the bright tones and makes the dark tones more dynamic. You can achieve it playing with curves, with pretty much any software. (Hi Olin :)) –  clabacchio May 24 '12 at 13:35

You could also adjust the color temperature -- making it warmer.

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In Lightroom, open it, press W button (for white balance) and click on a white neutral pixel of your photo.

But... I like this shot as it is :) You can feel the snow under your feet.

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* Non-white neutral pixel in the latest versions of lightroom...it needs to be gray, preferably as close to 18% gray as you can find. This is a good rule of thumb in previous versions of lightroom as well, as pure white and the colors very near to it don't actually contain any really useful color balance information...gray tones are generally best for automatic white balance selection based on a source pixel. –  jrista May 24 '12 at 2:14

In Photoshop, duplicate the layer, select Filter | Average Blur, and then Image | Mode | Invert. Change the Layer blending mode to Overlay. Adjust opacity to taste.

That said, snow is "supposed" to be cold. Blue is cold. If you make it too neutral, it will lose the feeling of being cold.

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It looks like a matter of white balance. In GIMP, you can try correcting this with the Hue slider in Tools -> Color Tools -> Hue-Saturation, or playing with the Color -> Color Balance sliders. Specifically, reduce the amount of Blue by dragging the slider to the Yellow side.

EDIT: there is, obviously, a better way - use GIMP's auto white balance feature Color -> Auto -> White Balance.

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Does GIMP have a white balance selection tool? i.e. balance off of the white snow? –  dpollitt May 22 '12 at 21:04
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@dpollitt - I was looking for this myself but couldn't find any. Only way to get this (IIRC) is through UFRaw. –  ysap May 22 '12 at 22:02
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@dpollitt: there's an eye dropper in the Levels tool which will set the mid-gray to a neutral color you select in the image. If you have a gray card that's exactly right but won't do so well with very bright white snow. –  mattdm May 24 '12 at 12:45

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