Your iPhone is out and ready and you are about to take a photo to post on Instagram for your biz, but you just can’t get rid of that orangey look on the subject’s skin. What is going on? Why are skin tones looking like an Oompa Loompa? You know you want to avoid orange photos, but don’t really know what is going on in the first place, let alone how to fix it. So you snap the photo.
You pop into your fave editing app and try and “fix” the photo. You tweak the color but nothing quite makes it look right. The more you edit, the more “edited” the photo looks but you don’t know what to do. Then you hop onto Instagram, upload the photo, attempt one of those crazy Instagram filters just to mask the color more and hope no one else will notice. Hit publish and call it good.
But then you have crickets on your post. No engagement, no comments. Apparently, orange photos are not appealing to others either. But how do you avoid orange photos in the first place?
Unattractive orange color in your photos makes for mediocre images. To top it off, that orange color is hard to “fix” in editing.
No one likes looking like an oompa-loompa so let’s avoid it altogether!
What if I told you, that orange color is caused by 1 major lighting issue, and by learning this trick you elevate the quality of your images instantly!
Simple answer: your camera is confused by multiple light sources in the photo. The camera is giving a wonky white balance because it’s confusing.
Remove one of the light sources from the photo, and your camera will automatically fix your white balance.
Your iPhone (and any camera) adjusts to color temperature. Its literally sees different types of light as different colors. If you use two different types of light in a scene, the camera can’t adjust because there are too many options.
Daylight = blue light
Indoor lights (incandescent/tungsten) = orange light .
When you have indoor lights on, and a window lighting the scene, you are showing a blue and an orange light to your camera and expecting it to look good. Your camera doesn’t know which to adjust to so it either picks one and the other light source shows up a weird color, or it picks something in the middle, which always looks bad.
How does color temperature affect your photo?
What your camera is looking for is called white balance. You’ve probably seen WB or AWB on your camera in the past. This is White Balance (WB) or Auto White Balance (AWB).
The camera is set to see the color, adjust to make skin tones look pretty and neutral and call it good. The camera is looking for 18% grey and it uses white, grey and black areas in the photo to automatically adjust.
When you are trying to take a photo indoors with the indoor lights on, and you are by a window, you are asking your camera to guess as to what you want.
Since there is both daylight (blue) and indoor (orange) light in the image and the combo of the light temperatures makes that 18% grey that the camera looking for make skin tones either orange or blue.
The combination of those two light sources (and their different color temperatures) tell the camera to adjust in a way that makes your image color look less than appealing.
Look at the photos to the right. The bottom right image has skin tones that are most accurate and the other three images are where the camera is trying to pick between daylight or indoor light white balance. And doing a poor job of it.
If the iPhone chooses to adjust for the warm tones of the indoor light, then you’ll see blue areas in the photo where ever that daylight is brighter in than the indoor lights, or it will pick something in the middle.
Let’s look at these photos and explain the light in them and how it’s affecting the picture.
Top Left Photo:
You can see the window behind me, there is an indoor lamp directly next to the window which is lighting me. The camera sees the blue daylight and the orange indoor light as well and picks in between, but closer to the indoor light. Hello oompa loompa.
Top Right Photo:
is where I am standing in front of the window and the lamp is the right side of the photo. The camera has auto changed to more of a daylight balance which is making the left side of my face look decent, then the right side of the photo turns super orange in color.
Bottom Left Photo:
This image has those windows in the background again. I’m further into the room and directly under a ceiling light. Since that window is taking up about 1/4 of the image, it is making the camera confused and it’s picking a color in the in between which gives me that splendid yellow tone. 🤢
Bottom Right Photo:
This image, I turned off all the indoor lights, stood by the window and took the photo. This took away all the confusion for the camera because now there is one light source to balance to : daylight. And this is the best image of the pack.
To get rid of the orange color in your photos use only 1 light source in your scene.
You can choose between using indoor light or daylight.
If you are shooting indoors during the day, it can be pretty hard to remove all the daylight from the scene unless you have blackout curtains. Daylight coming in your window is also a much more flattering light than 90% of indoor ceiling type lights. So my suggestion is to default to turn off the lights in the room and use the daylight 9 out of 10 times.
As you can see from the photos above.
The left image is window light only.
The middle image is indoor light only (with use of a blackout curtain ).
The last photo is where the window has window light my face, and indoor light in the background
The image that looks best in quality of light and color of light is the window lit photo on the left. The indoor light photo in the middle is decent color because the window light was removed. The location of the light (mounted to the ceiling) though, I had to lift my head up a lot w/ the camera to get light in my eyes, and the shadow under my eyebrows makes this lightless appealing than that of the window light which is evener. Then the right side photo, you can see how the color becomes more slightly redder/orange just by turning that light behind me on. And now you can see the distracting elements of my office as well which is less than ideal.
You want to fix the lighting BEFORE you take the photo, instead of trying to fix the problem in post. Because that orange color is very hard to remove after the image is taken.
- Before you take your photo, look around at the light you are in. How many light sources do you see? If there is more than 1 type of light, then remove (turn off, or use blackout blinds) the light you don’t need.
- Blue tones, happen when the camera adjusts for the indoor light and daylight in the image is bright.
- Orange images happen because the iPhone adjusts to the window light white balance (daylight) and the orange is caused by the indoor lights which also light the scene.
- Fix the orange or blue color by removing one of the light sources.
- My suggestion is to turn off the indoor lights and use the window light to light your scene. The quality of light appeals more than that of the indoor can light from above.
If you are a visual person, take a look at the video below. I show you how the iPhone automatically adjusts for the white balance as I change between window light and indoor lights below! You’ll be able to see the color shift as I move around the house and how the image changes.
Let me know what you think!