I have photos that are much too blue and do not show the sunset colors at all. How can I make the pictures look like what I saw, using Corel Paint Shop Pro or other software? How can I prevent this in the future?


Outdoor vistas are illuminated by sunlight and skylight. In the middle of a clear day, the sun is contributing white light and the sky is contributing an azure cast. The two blend, and the combination produces a natural daylight. Shadows are the result when an object blocks sunlight. However we can still see detail in these shadow areas because they are receiving light from the sky, Most times we are unaware of the blue cast induced by scatter light from the blue sky, however a photograph will generally depict shadows with a blue cast. This is particularly true when the vista is a snow scene. The digital camera in auto mode attempts to neutralize strange illumination with its “white balance” algorithm. White balance is not infallible, so sometimes we need to switch to manual and supply a suitable neutral target for the white balance to work off of.


Optical Illusion

In the image above, both labelled squares are the same colour. Yes, exactly the same. You can check it yourself using an eyedropper tool in some software. They look different because our brains adjust for the context of the colours around them. In an environment washed with the yellowish light of a ceiling light, we can still tell what colour things are despite that they all have a yellow tint to them. We don't even notice the tint! Our brain is automatically correcting for the context of the colours; for the light source.

This phenomenon is called white balance. Our brains are very good at it, but cameras sometimes are not. They only see what's in the frame, so sometimes they don't have enough context to choose the correct white balance automatically.

White balance is corrected in software after the fact (if necessary) by specifying some part of the image which you know should look white. In principle we ought to specify the full spectrum of light of the primary light source (i.e. the sun through the clouds) and also have an understanding of how the human brain perceives such a light source, but we don't. If extra colour correction is needed (it usually isn't) then that would be more involved.

So use your favourite software to edit the white balance of your image. You will get better results if your image is in the camera RAW format instead of JPG.


Adjust White Balance in Paint Shop Pro - away from the blue tint and toward the warmer tints, until the blue cast disappears.

Note though, that your monitor may not be calibrated correctly. Even when it is, if you share the photo, people viewing it on their monitors may not have calibrated monitors. In other words, you can only do your best. If you can't calibrate your monitor then I recommend tweaking the white balance to something that looks good to you, then sharing that photo across a few devices - your desktop PC, your laptop, your work PC, and your smart phone, for example. Compare the image across those different devices and you'll find it looks different on each.

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