Complete Color Integrity

Color Integrity and Color balance – A Few Examples

People who are new to the concept of color integrity tend to confuse it with color balance. We have explained and used both of these concepts in several ways on this Color Integrity Complete page. Here we will give just a few examples. I make no claim that these are good photographs or that they are good illustrations of what I mean by lack of color integrity. See the section Why We Give Few Illustrative Examples of Color Integrity to understand. First,


The image on the left has color integrity. You may not agree with its color balance, but if you don't it is an easy matter to change it to your liking. The image on the right does not have color integrity. You may not agree with its color either, but it will not respond well to changes in color balance. In fact, you would find it difficult to adjust it by any means and really get it right.



Again, the image on the left has reasonably good color integrity. And again you may disagree with its color balance – in fact I often think it is too red myself. And since it has color integrity its color balance can be easily adjusted. The image on the right does not have good color integrity. If you compare the skin tones in the two images you will find that they are very similar while the ocean is very different in color. It would be nearly impossible to get the image on the right to look right – natural. For both the elephant and the beach walkers the differences are in adjustments that have been made to the entire image. In neither case was a selection made and part of the image treated differently.

Sometimes getting the color balance right can require very exacting adjustments of the colors of an image. We present here an image in which three different color balances have been applied:

In this image there really is no object where the viewer is really certain of its precise color, yet most people – photographers, at least – viewing these three versions will definitely prefer one to the other two. However, not all people will choose the same one of the three images and some people will think none of the three is really correctly color balanced. These images are really quite close in color balance (plus or minus 5CC), especially compared to what you see below. The principal reason for the sensitivity to color balance is the rock. We know it is a gray rock but that it likely is not precisely gray. Our differing experiences lead to disagreement as to exactly what tint it might take on. Seen by themselves rather than side by side any one of the three images might look properly color balanced.

The next image is at the other end of the color balance sensitivity range. This is a scan of a print which I made years ago using wet darkroom processes – the reddish spot at lower right is actually a defect of aging.


The image on the left is approximately as it would have been white balanced. The image on the right shows a very different color balance which most people would accept or even prefer to the white balance. Even placing these two images side by side does not make one or the other really jump out as wrong. But we can go farther than that:

This shows that the same scene can be color balanced much more to the red and still not be objectionable to most people, especially if not seen in comparison to the others. We do not wish to give the impression that this is all a warm-cool, red-blue effect, so here is one that has been shifted to the green:

This extreme case works as well as it does for two reasons. First, the color of the lighting in a hazy sunset is ambiguous. The eye expects this and furthermore it expects the lighting to be changing rapidly with time at sunset. But this still would not work well if the image did not have reasonably good color integrity to start with. In each case the colors running from dark to light blend as they would in natural lighting.

Perspectives and Comments
Genesis of the Idea
– what led to the discovery of these simple facts.
Why We Give Few Illustrative Examples of Color Integrity
Color Integrity from the Viewpoint of Artistic Painting
Fog Example
Color Integrity from the Viewpoint of Basic Physics and Mathematics
Trying to Deal With Color Integrity in Photoshop
Color Integrity and Color Balance
– A Few Examples
Comments on Calibrating Digital Images
"Acceptable Accuracy" in Calibration
Calibration and Color Profiling
The Pitfalls of Using Profiling as Camera Calibration

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