Friday, January 05, 2007

Difficult colors to photograph

Purple absolutely drives me crazy. For some reason I cannot get any with purple in it to show up correctly in my photos--it always looks blue. Last February I spent hours trying to get the purple on my king cake to look like purple in the photos, but nothing I did with the camera worked. I have a PowerShot S70 that I use primarily in manual mode, tinkering with lighting, f stop, white balance, and everything else. Today I'm trying to photograph something else that is primarily purple, and I've got the same problem again.

Any tips for getting purple and other difficult colors right?

This Post was written by Andrea from Andrea's Recipe Box.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I've had to photograph purple food yet, but white and soup gets me every time.

nika said...

1st: where did you get your black bowl in your post about the colombian Ajiaco? I remember these so well from childhood.

on my monitor it looks purplish.. remember that unless you get a screen calibrator your screen may not be rendering colors true.

also be sure to save as sRGB.

I am Jack's Brain said...

Setting the custom white balance is the only thing I can think of.

By the way, the icing in the king cake looks purple to me.

kiplog said...

With some tinkering in Photoshop (or Photoshop elements) you can change the blue hues you want to purple by adding a little magenta. This can be done a few ways, but easiet in the Hue/Saturation control (choose the blues and shift the hue control to the right). Also adding a little magenta in the Selective color tool will shift things towards the purple.

See my adjustment, done with the Hue/Saturation Control

As far as trying for purple in the camera, natural light or a cooler (bluer) photo bulb might help, because the camera is adjusting the white balance by shifting away from reds and magentas.

Andrea said...

Nika: I bought a set of six of those bowls and baskets and a few other pieces of black pottery in Ráquira many years ago.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off-topic and won't help you to take photos, but once it comes to colouring anything digitally (e.g. in Paint or other graphic application) there's a tool I use all the time that I find invaluable and this may be of interest to someone reading your post.

It's called Hex Colour Finder and it's easy to locate on the web and download for free. You open it as a small window alongside anything you want to match a colour from. HCF has a little sampler icon which you drag onto the desired colour.

Magically the window displays the RGB composition of the colour also also the colour code. You can recreate the colour from the RGB data in most applications. The colour code can be used in a template to change colours already there in the css code(color:#xxxxxx) or to colour something you add using html tags.

The snag - there's always one - is that non-standard colours often don't render properly and even when you use standard ones Firefox and IE don't render them identically. At that point you tear your hair out.

Andrea said...

Paul: Thanks for the tips, I really appreciate it. I use Fireworks, so I'll play around some more and see if I can get a better purple. Or, since Mardi Gras is not far off, I may just photograph this years cake and use it instead. :-)

Nika: How do I save as sRGB?

I finally got purple to show up as purple in a photo, and although it's not a precise match, I'll take the 90% solution. Today was a gray, cloudy day, but I used the natural light anyway. The photo was shot at 1/40 f4.0.

McAuliflower said...

Andrea- point us towards a photo that isn't working in the realm of purple for you. That way we can help validate whether it's your monitor settings.

using an RGB palette (for work viewed on a monitor- not to be used for work to be printed) is a mode you can select within photoshop. But I suspect you aren't using photo manipulation software...

Vanessa said...

I agree with all the hi-tech tricks. If you don't have photoshop you can always use The Gimp, a free, OS, photo editor. You'll find it at

A low tech trick is to use a complimentary color as a background. I think it might be yellow and green for purple.

Anonymous said...

At risk of making myself sound like a real geek - here's how to identify a complimentary colour. Use Paint (comes standard with MS in Accessories) or a similar application that includes an inverter (for Paint, "Image" "Invert Colours"). Then use Hex Colour Finder to give you the RGB mix and colour code for your inverted colour, which will be the complimentary of the original. In the case of your purple food it's a green/grey yellow.

Andrea said...

I love this group! Ask a question and you get a bunch of good answers. :-) Thanks to all of you for jumping in to help.

You can see the original untouched photo here. The part that I think looks blue should look more purple. I think that 990099 is a good RGB equivalent for the color of the original icing.