The Purple Bane

19 May

Digital camera sensors have difficulty seeing, rendering and processing purple, rendering the color purple as a pure blue instead.  Most shades of purple actually are a mixture of red, blue and violet, and violet is right at the edge – or well outside – of the color gamut that the sensor can capture, and outside what your display can show or your printer print.  For those colors you will never be able to do more than just make an approximation.

You could take your photographs in the raw format, but you’ll need a raw converter.  A raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor.  The image must first be processed by a raw converter into a wide-gamut internal colorspace where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a “positive” file format, such as JPEG, for storage, printing, or further manipulation, which often encodes the image in a device-dependent colorspace. There are dozens if not hundreds of raw formats in use by different models of digital equipment (like cameras or film scanners).

This is why the color purple is the bane of every amateur photographer, among whom I count myself.

My solution is post-editing my photos using Adobe Elements 10.

After much trial and error, I came up with the following steps, which can almost always get the color purple/violet set to rights:

Enhance → Adjust Lighting → set Lighten Shadows to 0 → set Darken Highlights to 50 (if you need to remove glare)


Enhance → Adjust Color → Adjust Hue/Saturation →change “Master” to “Blues” → set Hue to 25 → set Lightness to -50

Here are before and after photographs to which I applied these steps today:





The “after” is a very good approximation of the bejeweled dragonfly wing, but not perfect.  The micro-beads are a bit pinker than shown here, otherwise the colors (on my laptop) look great and are drastically better than the “before” in a few simple steps.

Now you, too, can banish the purple bane!


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