I took the attached picture with an iPhone 4, outside around 5pm, which was close to sunset.

  1. Does the subject's face have too much red tint?
  2. If yes, how would I fix this?

enter image description here

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    Asking color-related question in a not fully color-managed environment (from your camera, through the site, to the viewers' screen)... Somewhat pointless... – TFuto Dec 30 '13 at 15:26
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    Also, not only pointless, but you might end up learning things the wrong way. The correct approach is: 1. create a color-managed environment, 2. publish the photo as a link with embedded ICC profile data, 3. ask only those who have standardized color-management environments with backlight-compensation, etc. and 4. they will still say different things. – TFuto Dec 30 '13 at 15:28
  • Internet is about sRGB, which is a common denominator for most people, but you do not know how their monitor has been set up. Many people uses cold (high temperature) monitors, so that adds a blue tint, etc. I suggest starting with color management e.g. here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_management. – TFuto Dec 30 '13 at 15:30
  • BTW: my ultra non-color managed VMWare Linux box, the picture is lacking a bit red. In a D55 cd80 native contrast environment, it looks somewhat tinted. And my third monitor shows another tinting. :-) You can handle colors with curves in Gimp or Photoshop or Lightroom, but please get your color setup correct first. – TFuto Dec 30 '13 at 15:33

On my color-calibrated screen, it looks in the range of normal Caucasian skin tones. If anything, it's a little under red.

In order to do this kind of correction, you want a color-calibrated setup too. See the color-calibration tag for more on this.

Once you have that done, there's many ways to adjust color. One of the quickest is the Curves tool available in Photoshop or (free software) Gimp. Select the Red channel and pull the curve up or down a little bit. More on this here How does the Curves tool work in GIMP? (and the same basically applies to all other software with a similar tool.

  • I like how you said "the range of normal..." as this range is in front of me every time I visit my sister's family. My sister is a Finn and her husband is a German. In daylight they are almost the same tone, but whenever I need to use flash they turn out very different skin tones. – Esa Paulasto Dec 30 '13 at 7:52

If you have to ask, you need a calibrated display. Check other questions on this site, there is plenty of info about that.

There are many many ways to correct it and every image processing software can handle this. You are looking for a tool called white-balance, color-balance or something similar. Good software can apply this to multiple images in batch which saves you from repeating the same operation if you took a number of photos under the same condition.

At the lazy extreme of the spectrum, Google Picasa was a I'm Feeling Lucky function which corrects this type of cast and adjusts contrast most of the time. If you have access to Photoshop Elements or even all-powerful version, there is an Auto Color function to fix that too. It also gets it right most of the time and, if it does not, you can easily correct it using the Color Variations tool.


To me, it actually appears to be too blue, though slightly on the purple side, so it's mostly too blue with a little bit too much red maybe. I'm not on my best screen at the moment though, so take that with a grain of salt.

For this particular image, I'm not sure how good of a result you will get trying to correct it. Normally you can use an RGB curve or a white balance tool to adjust for color issues like this, but since this is a JPEG image that is already rather blown out, there probably isn't a lot of actual information to work from. The areas that are pure white (from clipping on the cheeks mostly) will probably end up distorted when you try adjusting the white balance.

The original's contrast is also a bit low (almost none of the image is darker than a medium grey) so it's still going to look faded without a bunch more work that again will amplify noise. It can certainly be improved, but there is a limit to how much it will be able to be improved, particularly given that it is starting in JPEG. If it was a RAW file, there'd be more options, but I don't know of any current smartphones that can shoot RAW.

  • to me it also looks too blue/purplish. – Michael Nielsen Dec 30 '13 at 15:11

I agree that the image is too red, but see a couple of reasons for that. White balance is one of them, but only plays a part. The other is that the image is slightly overexposed so that the normal shape and tone in the cheeks is gone. That contributes to the balance issue in flesh tones by removing the neutral component, and making them appear more colorful.

Here's my take on your image: enter image description here

Changes made were to bring this into Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and add highlight tone and minus exposure slightly. Then increase shadow detail to compensate the reduced brightness from the previous moves. Changed the White balance by adding yellow slightly, then noticing the cool shadows in his hair and background, I thought it would be a shame to change the feel too much, so I did the rest in selective color. Changing the hues of both the red's, oranges and magenta's more yellow an adding red to the yellows slightly. Seemed a bit unsharp too so I added a bit of sharpness, using a proprietary method, just for fun.


That picture looks a little too magenta to me, not red. Here it is with the white balance set to 1 .9 1:

enter image description here

That looks a little more plausible to me, but I wasn't there and I don't know what this guy really looks like.

In general, it's a good idea to take a white balance reference shot unless you are in a lighting situation that you have previously calibrated your sensor for, like bright sunlight. I have tested a few camera sensors and found them all to be surprisingly linear. That means one gray reference for a particular lighting situation will do for all pictures taken with that lighting. I usually carry a business card that was printed on heavy bright white stock with me for this purpose. Take one picture of something known white, taking care not to overexpose the white, and you have a white/gray reference for the whole series of shots with the same lighting.

Note that "same lighting" does not apply outdoors if clouds are coming and going and if some pictures are in shadows or others in direct sunlight. Also, each outdoor overcast situation needs its own measurement. There is no one common color cast produced by clouds.

However, in this case the best answer is to ditch this picture. You can't fix the top of the head cut off or the left side of his face blown out. Delete it and move on.


Others have described how to fix that one photo.

I love this tool, its under $100 and allows you to know what the color are, so you can correct errors without guesswork: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

Of course, proper skin color is more of an artistic choice than scientific fact.

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    Proper skin color depends on who is in front of your camera. – Esa Paulasto Dec 31 '13 at 5:43

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