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The color temperature of the light in which a photo is shot determines how colors will appear in the photo. Most cameras have an Auto White Balance control that tries to render the whites in a scene as neutral white, with other colors falling in around that pretty accurately. But sometimes that doesn't work, and the result is an image with a color cast. Before I show you how to fix an unwanted color cast in Camera RAW, I want to make the point that not all color casts are unwanted. Sometimes, as in this photo, a color cast can tell the story, or set the mood for a photo.
This photo, for example, was taken at the end of the day, when the sky really had this beautiful warm cast, and that's what this photo is all about, so I wouldn't want to try and remove it. Let me show you a couple of photos that do have an unwanted color cast. Here in my Organizer, I am going to go to the Size slider, and drag it to the left, so you can see a couple of other photos, which both are way too orange. So I'm going to bring those into Camera RAW, and see if we can fix that. I'll select one, and hold the Shift key as I select the other, and then I'll click the arrow to the right of the Fix tab, and choose Full Photo Edit.
You can bring multiple files at once into Camera RAW. When you do, they appear in this column on the right, and you can select the photo from here that you want to work on in the document window. When you're processing an image in Camera RAW, the approach I recommend is to go over to the Basic panel, and start at the top, and just work your way down through the controls in order. This built-in path through the process is one of the perks of working with RAW files. The first controls in the Basic panel are for setting White Balance. There are Color Temperature, and Color Tint sliders, and a White Balance menu that contains preset combinations of the Temperature and Tint sliders at different settings.
I like to just cycle through these White Balance presets, finding the one that I like best as my starting point for redoing the white balance. As Shot is the way that my camera shot the photo. Auto is Camera RAW's best guess about what the white balance should be. Let's try that. I think that looks a lot better than As Shot. Actually, I think the photo is too dark to accurately judge the color, so I am going to skip ahead a step, click on the Exposure slider, and drag it to the right, just to brighten up the photo temporarily, so that I can judge the color, and later I can come back and tweak exposure if I have to.
So I'll continue going through the presets in the White Balance menu. In this case, most of these are still too warm. Tungsten isn't bad, but I think that in this case, Auto is my favorite, so I'll select that. Now I can use the Temperature and Tint sliders to fine tune that result if I want to. The decision about proper white balance really is subjective, so you may not absolutely agree with me, but what I am going to do is take the Temperature slider, which ranges from blue on the left, to orange on the right, and drag it slightly to the right to warm the scene up just a little.
I might try to add a little magenta to the scene too, using the Tint slider that ranges from green on the left, to magenta on the right. So I'll drag that slightly to the right. I often this Tint slider when I am correcting a portrait to add a little magenta glow to the subject's skin. So that's one way to approach white balance in Camera RAW. There is another tool that you can use for white balance, and to show you that, I am going to switch to the second photo in the column on the left by clicking on it there. Up in Camera RAW's toolbar, there is a White Balance Eyedropper.
I'll select that, and then with this tool, I'll click on part of the image that I think should be white, or neutral gray, or sometimes even black. This method is less precise than the one I just showed you, so it sometimes takes a few clicks. For example, if I click right here, the image is too blue. I'll try a couple of other spots, too green. Let's see what this does. That's not too bad. Once again, I would come over to the Basic panel, and move the Exposure slider over to the right, so I can get a better sense of the color in the image, and I really don't mind that.
So those are two approaches to correcting color balance here in Camera RAW. Being able to set white balance as if from scratch after a shoot is one of the big advantages of shooting RAW instead of JPEG. If you shoot JPEG, there's only so much you can do to correct a color cast during post-processing, because the white balance to which your camera was set is processed into a JPEG by the camera, but that's not true when you shoot RAW. So the next time you're in a mixed lighting situation, try turning your camera settings to RAW, so you have the opportunity to correct any color cast later here in Camera RAW.
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