For the Color Blind Photographer



For the first time in my career another photographer reached out to me about their colorblindness and asked for help when it comes to being a photographer and the lack of the ability to perceive color as the most of the world does. They asked if I knew of a website or a book to help. I said no. But as of today I have dug around on the internet for a bit to find that colorblind photographers do exist and funny enough they think the same way as I do when it comes to photography. In that end, I want to write an article for you my colorblind friends and how to be a photographer. There is not book on the topic but at least there is this.


To Those Who See Different


I think I need to point out first and foremost not all colorblindness is created equal. If you have not done a color blind test please do one now. The reason why is because my experience and your experience may not be the same. Some can't see blues well, while others its red green. In one extreme story I heard of a guy who could only see yellow well. I am not sure how that makes sense, but that's what I heard. For me I am red green colorblind, but only moderately. I can see both of these colors, but in poor lighting or once the red hits a certain range I loose track of the color and I struggle to identify it. So probably the best way to describe my existence is if you took the saturation sliders of life and dropped them by a bit that would be my vision. There are others with far worse color vision than I and I have met a few.


Because this is how I see, I can only give advice towards this spectrum of existence. Sorry blue color blind folk, I can't even perceive your world, but I can feel empathy towards you. But some of the principles do apply to all of us.


Trust in your Gear


To be a color blind photographer you must have trust in your gear. You must do this because your camera will chooses your colors in the end, so get a camera that does it well. I personally choose Canon, and I do not like the way the yellows look on Nikon. I hear Sony requires more work to get the photo back to where you want it. I don't know if that's true, but that's what I hear. Since I have photographed with Canon for 6+ years now, I know what to expect and know its short comings. So my advice is to find a camera company you like and stick to it, it makes editing in the long run much easier.


On a side note, better lenses and better sensors render color better than cheaper ones in my experience. Buy well.


Trust in your Memory


Most adjustments in photography actually focus on brightness and contrast, not color. Color adjustment comes later in the workflow if you are feeling confident. But with that in your mind, if you take an image and edit towards a memory you are editing to what the world actually looked like. Your brain records images just like your camera, it gathers information from the outside world and stores it. That images are not wrong, its just recorded with 2's and 3's instead of 0's and 1's. but these two number systems are interchangeable as long as you are not making additional adjustments. So trust your memory and edit towards that the best you can.


Don't alter your memory either.


For my non-color blind friends who might read this, yes you can alter your memory when doing photography. And I don't mean by drugs or alcohol, I mean by color blind glasses. I have a pair. I love them. I do not do photography with them on. The world can look dramatically different for me with them on, particularly in a place called red rock country as a red green colorblind photographer. With them on I see pink and the deep reds that I can't see otherwise. Because of this I do not photograph with them on and I do not recommend it, unless you figured out how to get them to work well indoors (mine are sunglasses after all).


For my non-colorblind friends, the best analogy is getting those yellow glasses designed for removing blue light for working on computer screens and go do photography with those on all day and come back home and try to edit your images, it will feel very odd.


Find a Friend


My wife is my best friend and the one I ask when something feels off. She is my color management guide when I need her. If you do not have one of these yet, find one. Not a wife per say but someone who is not color blind that can help you when you go astray.


Editing


Editing always takes practice and the more you do the better you will get. If you are colorblind and refuse to edit your images because of your disability, you are purposefully denying yourself a quite pleasant experience of getting a photo right. Edit your images even if you think they will suck. Try try and try again until you begin to get it right. Do as the rest of us color blind photographers do and avoid that tint slider and those confusing color wheels in LR or PS when you get to pick your color and apply that to your shadows/highlights. Only venture into those once you are very confident.


Also, if you cant work with color, just switch to black and white, not color involved and can still be very dramatic.


Failing Along your Way


The photo below has too much pink. Want to know how I know that. I printed it and took it outside with my Enchroma glasses and looked at it and realized it was very very pink in the rocks. I didn't share it with my wife and I failed. You will fail, and sometimes it will suck. If I had a greater desire to go back and fix this image I would, but I won't because pink is really hard for me to fix, so I let it be.



Final Thoughts


I encourage you my color blind friends to not be left behind in the world of photography. Keep moving forward and try hard things. I made it in some way or another and get complimented on my colors in my photographic work all the time. Maybe I suck compared to other photographers but I bet most of them don't have their photos sitting in hundreds of homes across the world. I do and I am colorblind. If I did it some of you can do it too.


I am a color blind photographer and I am here to stay.

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