I really wonder, when I see some people showing their creativity, composition sense, and light sense through their photographs. I just came through such a photo now.

This is the photo: enter image description here

I saw this photo here

Did he/she use any kind of filter in this picture? If so, what is the name of the effect? I meant midnight blueish effect.

I just want to know your clarification about this photo. I am not photographer, but I like to see pictures.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, then depends on the way people see. Probably, this picture has created a nice feelings to me. Specially the effect has created a heavenly feelings. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2016 at 12:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please see the following link about how to aslk "What's this effect?" types of questions. Unless you tell us specifically what it is about this photo for which you need clarification we have no way of knowing which aspect of the photo interests you meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3881/…. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Aug 16, 2016 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ You've edited to clarify that you just mean the "midnight blueish effect", but the title asks about the setup and your intro sentence talks about "creativity, composition sense, light sense". Are you saying you see those things embodied in the blue cast, or do you actually also want to ask about something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Aug 16, 2016 at 13:21

1 Answer 1


Quick summary: raise the black point and add an orange cast to the highlights and a blue cast to the shadows, and there you go.


First, like most "vintage" or "film-like" post-processing, the black level has been raised. That means that nothing is pure black; everything is a shade of gray. In this case, this is quite extreme; see this histogram:

histogram from image

note that there's nothing in the image in the lower 20% of values. Generally, the in-camera tone curves of cameras aren't this extreme. It could be caused by veiling glare — excess light bouncing around inside the lens providing a diffuse increase in brightness — but most likely it was just done as a post-processing effect.

Second, the image has a orange/blue split tone applied. There is a strong orange cast in the brighter parts — the blue channel has been decreased significantly, and green to a lesser degree. And, there is an inverse *blue cast in the shadows**. Your perception of the result was "midnight blueish", but to me the orange cast is quite dominant. (The brain is a funny thing, and since your vision system is designed to compensate for color casts, it's hard to identify them without a lot of careful practice.)

This could be due to messing with white balance in the field, but most likely it is also due to post-processing. This is also typical for "vintage" looks, because it simulates the effect of degradation of color prints, where different dyes age differently.

Both of these are very typical for "old film look" effects, although you'll see different particular color casts. See

for further examples.

It's also instructive to take this into any editing program and hit the "automatic levels adjustment" button (or "auto fix", or whatever). This will stretch the histogram so the blacks are black again, and even out color channels, so you'll get:


which is probably reasonably close to the image as shot. It's not going to be exact, since the color and black level shifts are inherently a loss of information and can't be completely reversed. It's probably more contrasty than the original and will be missing some nuance of color, but this should be in the ballpark.

Here's a view of the Curves tool for the automatic correction above:


Here, you can see in order to reverse the effect, the blue channel is raised significantly in the brighter parts of the image, and the green channel raised about half that much. That's the same as adding a blue cast to the whole thing — and that blue is the inverse of orange. And you can see the inverse over on th left, in the darker parts. (The channels are also compressed, increasing contrast to undo the black level change. If you play with this by hand, you can correct the color cast without increasing contrast, if you like.)

Or, for another visualization: for each of the tones in the black-to-white gradient here (with dark tones at the left and right tones at the right), the corresponding color has been added from the blue-to-orange gradient below:


I constructed this by taking the adjustment between auto-levels above, inverting it, and applying it to the bottom half of the black-to-white gradient. You could do the same to an actual photograph, though; here's the same technique applied to a different image:





Note that there's also possibly a third thing going on. This image is saved with the Adobe RGB color profile. If your web browser and system aren't properly recognizing that and displaying appropriately, colors will be shifted and even more muted than intended. If these two images look identical:

original color profile dropped

(where the first is the original and in the second I've left the pixels the same but dropped the information which says to render with Adobe RGB), you're seeing that as well, and you should fix your system — but that's a whole different topic.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In defense of the OP's perception of added blueness, I would point out that the blue and green channel shadows were probably lifted significantly more than the red. Even if you assume the clothing is actually dark blue rather than black, the dark areas on the rocks are very blue/cyan as well. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2016 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @junkyardsparkle Oh, good point! That's actually apparent in the reconstructed-curves dialog. I'm going to adjust my answer taking that into account. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Aug 17, 2016 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it would be interesting to take a poll to see how perception of scenes like this varies among people; I personally don't notice the amber cast as immediately as the blue... weird. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2016 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @junkyardsparkle For me, I think it's the "memory color" of the ocean (or, perhaps lake); even at sunset, water doesn't usually look like that. And I guess I was pretty willing subconsciously to read the clothing as naturally dark blue. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Aug 17, 2016 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, when I looked at the photo on an OLED phone just now, my impression was similar to yours, so the abilitly of the display hardware to render deep blacks seems to be a factor, too. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2016 at 20:07

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