Sometimes I keep on adjusting a photo for longer than is healthy. What follows is that I go somewhat blind to tones and colors. Then, I get oversaturated and dark images.

I am new to RAW processing, and owned a digital system camera for less than three months, so I'm still learning a lot as I go. Previously I edited my photos with contrast and lightness sliders and sharpening them too, being done ever so easily and quickly. But the more I learn about the possibilities of RAW processing, the longer I take to finetune my photos. There lies my problem. I keep on adjusting, until my eyes get so-to-speak burned out. Obviously I should take a short break every now and then, make coffee or something, to take my eyes off the screen.

But how can you be sure you are adjusting the right way? How should for example skin color look like to look natural? What if I end up with purplish skin and catch my mistake only after I already uploaded the photos to my favourite internet site. How to avoid that?

Correct skin tone is not the subject of this question, getting "blind" to tones is.

An example photo: too green grass and leaves

Please notice that I am not asking for help with this photo, it is here only to show you what my problem is. I was doing the right shade of green here, and look what happened. A dark image with blinding green! And for a short while I was very happy with this, until I went browsing some of my old photos and then came back to view this one. How can I avoid burning my eyes in post process?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I face the same issue. I'm not sure it's a burnout, it's more that my defaults keep moving. As I saturate an unprocessed image, the saturated image becomes my new starting point, which after a while does not look that saturated anymore. And then perhaps I saturate it a bit more, until it goes over the top. The only thing that helps as already mentioned is to have a second look at the image. I'd even suggest taking a full day break in between initial processing and finalizing. Another thing you could do is to use reference photos that you think are correctly toned. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fer
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 20:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ With all the advice given here I've found it hard to keep with a time limit. I do switch to look at other photos while working on one, but the best routine seems to be not to publish anything the same day. Leaving finishing until next day seems to do good for me. Just like you suggested, @Ferdy. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ And, as a reminder to the power users here: Always remember to disable f.lux or any program of the "shift colours at night to protect eyesight" kind. \$\endgroup\$
    – ppp
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 3:58

3 Answers 3


My solution is to set a timer and stop editing when it goes off. I won't edit any single shot for more than 15 minutes and try not to edit for more than an hour. Go for a walk, look out a window, see some reality (not just browse the web) -- even 5 minutes is generally enough to restore my reality and save me from the terrible progression of excessive edits.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I read you allright, but I still have to ask. Do you really have a timer giving you alarm sound when your set time is up? You actually use it when editing images? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the one hour, I have a few different play lists of music all about 1 hour long -- when they end, I know I am done. I have trained myself to not work too long on any one image, but no I do not use a 15 minute timer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool, that's an accept then. I'll make up something similar, while taking @AJH's methods into use too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:51

I think you hit the nail on the head with talking about looking at old photos (or other photos anyway) and coming back to it. In general, the important thing is to go to photos that have different primary colors or lighting and work on them for a bit. When I'm working through a large number of photo touch ups, I regularly jump from outside picture to inside pictures or pictures I shot with a flash to pictures I shot without a flash. These changes keep you from having particular aspects of the color grading kind of burn in to your brain.

It also helps to have a good monitor that produces accurate and comfortable color as staring at uncomfortably produced colors for a long time can also produce some of the effect you are talking about and it doesn't necessarily get fixed as well from switching gears since it is more of a fatigue from trying to distinguish subtle differences that are actually shifting on you due to the angle of view.

Another quick trick is to revisit images you are happy with and look for anything you might have missed and then swapping back to the image you are on to see how it is similar or different. This can also help with producing consistent color across a series.

You can also change what specifically you are doing on an image as long as you aren't just color grading. Color grading is what shows the most of this effect. It's far easier to keep working on an image if you are doing something like airbrushing or sharpening vs color grading. I always notice this effect most when color grading specifically.

Ultimately, it comes down to a comfortable, consistent screen with a variety of images to work on and experience keeping a good reference.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Looking at a different set of images helps a little, but for me I have to look at something other than a screen. Of course this may come down to a "what works for you" sort of thing with no solid objective answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatrickHurley - if you have an 6 bit TN panel, then that wouldn't surprise me. Two things happen when you look at a monitor too long. First, your brain starts going wonky about comparing fine grained relative color (this will happen regardless of monitor) and second is your eyes start getting fatigued. This is greatly compounded if the visual input isn't very good or is constantly changing, both of which are true of a 6 bit TN panel that doesn't display full gamut and also shifts color as you move or even from one side of the screen to the other. For fatigue, you have to walk away a bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have an iMac and a MacBook Pro both with IPS screens, but my brain is wonky :-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 22:11

Save Your Eyes

Strive for standard viewing conditions. The light level is as important as the colour balance and the environmental ambient light.

There's the 20-20-20 rule that says, every twenty minutes look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds which is good for eye fatigue. Our perceptions change as we tire.

There's the actual work flow:

  1. Copy,
  2. Crop,
  3. Contrast & brightness correction,
  4. Color balance correction,
  5. Clean up,
  6. Creative stuff and
  7. Sharpen.

Take care of your eyes, get sleep and feed your eyes with sufficient vitamin A & D.

Avoid long hours under fluorescent light which tires your eyes. Strive for continuous spectrum room illumination.

We can saturate our retina by staring at a hue for a while. As we saturate, we turn on more of the colour to compensate. Avoid staring at the same or similar colours for extended times. Take a break or change the scenery after a bit. Set an alarm if you need.


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