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Thread: Colour Blindness in Photography

  1. #1
    David's Avatar
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    Colour Blindness in Photography

    Hi All - I've been in Scotland attending the annual Spring Fling of artists in the Dumfries and Galloway area. There were two photographic galleries open for inspection this year:

    http://pmcphotography.co.uk

    and

    http://leemingpaterson.com

    I recommend visiting these sites for some stunning images.

    However, when chatting to Phil of pmcphotography, it emerged that he was colour blind with the usual male red-green deficiency. (Actually, we all should refer to this as "anomalous trichromaticism" rather than colour blindness.) I also have this condition. The topic does not appear to have surfaced before in this forum and I wonder if people have any comments. Does having colour deficient sight actually matter? Does it affect the image? If it does affect matters what can be done to correct it photographically? How do those with normal colour vision see red? (Pun?) Could there be any advantages?

    Having looked at several of Phil's images in his study at Laurieston, I could not tell he was colour blind, but then would I be able to?

    I look forward to hearing any comments.

    Cheers

    David

    PS If anyone visits the above sites and leaves any comments please mention this forum and that you were recommended to visit by me.

  2. #2
    crisscross's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    I must admit to being a bit bemused about this one. Phil looks to me as though he has steered towards the abstract and artistic and why not? Whether what I am tempted to class as the unusually high incidence of red tones, in his water and sunsets and especially one of beech leaves in snow, is different experience or different interpretation is anyone's guess.

    In our current culture one answer is that if he is exhibiting and selling it must be fine.

    Maybe we could organise a meet and deliberately take the same scenes and objects in the same light and after posting a few here, organise a trichromaticism test???? Not sure even if that would mean anything. I vaguely recall turning some mountain ash berries bright blue in PP (because it seemed to show their form and reflectivity better) and how different is that from turning them a more conventional monochrome?

  3. #3

    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    I may be way off the mark here but surely colour blindness is irrelevant in the image capture. Where it will make a difference is in pp. Even then this would be subjective as CrissCross's example suggests. If I see a blue sea through the view finder and it is actually green it makes little difference to me or the third party since the third party simply sees a green sea. For this reason the image may not be as appealing to the third party as it was to me....but that is true of any image. I personally find it very difficult to see photography in terms of right or wrong. It should be predominately an artistic discipline except where the camera is used for image capture alone eg crime scene, weld radiography etc. Yes todays camera is a piece of technical ingeniousness, but trying to apply similar technical algorithms to its primary output is like trying to knit fog since the third party viewer will always see your image in a different way. I admit there are basic guidelines such as sharpness (where intended and the rule of thirds but even then breaking these rules and producing a stunning image should be on the agenda of any photographer (in my opinion). Apologies for the rant...long day

  4. #4
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    Hi Steve,

    I agree, I only saw/see it as a PP issue, even then there are so many ways it can (almost un-intentionally) be avoided; e.g. Auto WB, or WB off grey or Whi-Bal card, use of RGB histograms, etc. such that I gather many men may not even know they have it unless they get tested for a job, glasses, etc.

    As we cannot numerically describe colours that others may assimilate unambiguously, your point about a blue or green sea is very valid.

    Take traffic lights (I wish someone would), people know the top light of three (in UK) is the red one and the bottom one is green, as I don't suffer from ATC, I can't tell how similar they may look to someone who does, I gather they do look different, possibly both tending to what a fully colour sighted person might describe as brown, but different enough that many suffers may not know they have a problem (apparently).

    I'm waffling, and talking of something I don't understand fully (no change there!), but I'd better stop.

    Make any sense to anyone?

    So, in short, I don't see it as a bar to anyone into photography or art.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 28th May 2009 at 07:18 PM. Reason: added 'in short'

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    I’m glad someone has raised this topic, as I have spent time wondering how disadvantaged I am as I sit here before the screen (see avatar). Because, like Steve and Dave, I too think this is solely focused (excuse the pun!) on pp and not relevant to image capture.

    I see what I see through the lens. If my green (or brown) object is your red object, so long as it’s well processed I’ll still in enjoy it in green or brown and you’ll enjoy it in red.

    The problem comes when the greenness of my object is crucial to the overall balance and harmony of the image, and it just wouldn’t work if it was red. You’ll look at it and wonder why on earth I thought the image worked. However, that is an extreme and rare situation.

    I was one of those, as referred to by Dave, who didn’t know I had it. It is a question of degrees. My red and your red are different. My green and your green are different.

    What that can mean is that I sit here thinking I might make a bit of a fool of myself if I post up something that, to you, is obviously ‘wrong’. For example, a couple of days ago I was working on an image of a lovely red japonica flower. But I had to get my partner through to check out which was the ‘correct’ red.

    Perhaps the ‘self-consciousness’ colour blindness creates is more of a barrier than the day-to-day challenges that it poses to life and living. I’m sure I read, many years ago during the first youthful journey into photography, that those of us who are colour blind, tend more towards tone and the abstract. And I do wonder if my desire to master the art of B & W is really born out of an appreciation of that form, or is it more to with believing (hoping!) that I can understand and master shades of grey better than I can get to grips with colour.

    And if I ever have anyone, ever again, thinking it’s great fun to set up a test along the lines of “Go on, tell us what colour you think that car/piece of clothing/road sign, etc is”, then they will get a severe blow to the head with a 40D. The innocent cruelty of others has long-lasting effects.
    Last edited by Donald; 28th May 2009 at 08:59 PM.

  6. #6
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    David and Donald have produced one instance of where it does seem to matter
    A Tribute to Wee Jim - Pseudo HDR Example
    This is evidently meant to be monochrome but has quite a strong pink cast on the midtones, which they say they can't see, while several others can.

    Were David to print this, people receiving it would be doing some head scratching. Could still be avoided by routinely using a total desaturation operation before mono printing, but it is one of the techniques of getting a full tonal range in mono to use a combination of colour tints and counter-filters and they definitely lose out not being able to do that.

  7. #7
    David's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    Re the Wee Jim pinkness here's a quick test image: two horizontal gradient bands, both of which look grey to me, the upper band looks slightly darker on the left-hand side. According to the colour selection I made, it should be pink.

    Colour Blindness in Photography


    Cheers

    David

  8. #8
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    Yep, definitely grey.

    However, the one plus point out of this is that the monitor seems to be working okay. Got Sheila (she who is the font of all knowledge and whom I must obey) through to check it out. The immediate response? - "That's pink".

    Oh well !

  9. #9

    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    For me I see the upper half pink, the lower gray, though all the ladies in my household swear that the lower part is blue not gray, am I suffering from anything or is it just a game played on me by the ladies?

  10. #10
    David's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    Thanks Donald - I am not alone. Priapus - your lady friends might see the lower portion as blueish if they see the upper as pink on the basis of after images having the complimentary colour to the original.

    David

  11. #11
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    Re: Colour Blindness in Photography

    I think it doesn't make a difference from artistic nor technical point of view if you ask me. I think with any photograph it's very subjective. People talk about objective "truths" in such things but really it's just collective agreement upon a subjective perception mostly. There isn't a way someone can process a photo (or paint etc etc) and be sure it will have the same impact upon others as upon themselves even if they see it the same from a technical pov. Eg. I find red a warm yet calming colour and have painted interior walls crimson before now and find it calming/soothing where as others who have the same technical visual perception as me see it as harsh or say it invokes anger or passion which is the complete opposite to me.

    I have regular colour vision btw so some could argue my green and your green are different but what about someone else with plain old regular colour vision? Technically they might see the same shade green but have completely different mental perception of it like I stated before. In many ways if I was to try and convey something in colour photograph heavy with certain shades of greens/reds then there is high chance that someone with ATC would experience it more as I intended (essentially experience similar to my own) than someone who sees it the same as I do (technically) but experiences it completely different.

    Obviously some times things like pink casts in monochrome might complicate things but simply asking your partner/friend etc "is this pink" could resolve that and 2nd opinions and input are good no matter what yor colour vision/perception is IMO. I actually didn't realise and thought the pink in the hdr shot was deliberate and thought it was interesting as was something I'd not seen before (and wouldn't have thought of with that subject matter) so you could even argue that it's advantageous in some respects, especially artistically like spontaneously presenting some things in a novel or unusual way.

    By artistically I mean stylised since technically speaking all photographs are artistic reresentations since no matter how close to reality we try to get they are still a 2d representation based upon our own subjective interpretation, expectations and memories etc.

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