Color Casts: What’s Wrong with Magenta Anyhow?

Coral Cove State Park, Jupiter Island Florida

Technical details:

Coral Cove, Jupiter Island Florida; Canon EOS 5D mk2, Canon 17-40L @23mm, 0.6 second @ f18 ISO 320


When I take a spin through any of the Internet image forums these days, I will soon encounter an image comment or critique imploring the removal of a color cast of some type. Magenta, for some reason, seems to be a popular target. Blues too. What’s with all the magenta hating anyway? The last I looked, magenta was a real color and it’s revealed in nature all the time during the diurnal hours of the day.

The same goes for images being “too dark.” Is there a threshold of brightness that must be attained before it escapes the slings and arrows of the offended? Maybe it actually WAS dark…….and magenta!

Then again, maybe it wasn’t dark. Maybe the artist (yes, photographers are artists) wanted to portray the scene as dark on purpose.

Photography is  about extracting and sharing feelings – and a little bit of yourself – not just faithfully reproducing the scene in front of the camera. Darkness has been a visual metaphor for sadness for ages – just to throw out one example. The image should represent how the scene makes you feel, not necessarily how it actually looks! So, don’t let the tyranny of the status quo strip your image of its perilous soul. Embrace darkness, lightness, color casts, and other subjective tools to actually say something.

Posted in Essays, Images | Tagged , , , , , ,


  1. Posted February 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm by Sheila Floyd | Permalink

    You are ABSOLUTELY correct!!! I would high five you if you were standing in front of me. Thank you, brilliant photographer, for that small but very wonderful blog!! Thank you thank you thank you!!! :o)

  2. Posted February 8, 2011 at 6:02 pm by Patsy Bowie | Permalink

    Richard, I love what you had to say about this. I agree with you 100 percent. In photo competitions, I will hear judges say all the time “this is too dark” or “this color is not right.” Yes, I, too, believe that a good photographer is an artist! You are certainly a true artist and great photographer. I have always admired your work!

  3. Posted February 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm by Ryan S. | Permalink

    I tend to agree, I’m a big proponent of not giving comments or critiques unless they are requested. If they ask, the only time I tend to dislike magenta is if the cast is so strong that I can tell it was from a gold/blue polarizer; filter use is at its best when you can’t tell one was used in my opinion.

    But that said, that’s what makes photography great… It’s in the eyes of the artist… And that’s why you have to take any comments with a grain of salt… I’ve had people tell me my fog photos didn’t have enough contrast, I never could figure out what they wanted me to do about it.

  4. Posted February 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm by Sue | Permalink

    I love magenta and I love the idea that reproducing the scene in front of the camera isn’t the end game. I love that images have a bit of the artist in them. I also love the image above. I have never been to Jupiter Island, Florida but after seeing an image of it in one of your books I have been wanting to find it! Thanks for sharing you insight.

  5. Posted February 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm by Blaine | Permalink

    With an extensive background in traditional film photography I have seen many images shift toward magenta as the color dyes in the paper fade over a periods of time. Perhaps this is some of the reasoning behind the magenta bashing. Some viewers are just conditioned to believe that images with a magenta cast can’t be what it is supposed to be.

  6. Posted February 9, 2011 at 2:29 am by Bret Edge | Permalink

    Great post, Richard! I’ve been on a bit of a mission lately to promote the notion that landscape photographers are artists, not photojournalists. Thanks for helping to further the cause.

    As for magenta, I admit I’ve been accused of complaining about a magenta color cast. Usually in my own images, though. If it’s natural, it’s natural. But occasionally an image is just off and a little color correction is necessary to realize MY vision for the scene.

    Good stuff. Looking forward to more of your insight and wisdom here on your blog.

  7. Posted February 9, 2011 at 7:36 am by Lance Warley | Permalink

    Ma-Gen-Ta, Ma-Gen-Ta. Yea.

    Cool post, Richard, especially since it features that Coral Cove killa!

    I think that image may be my most favorite of yours, at least until tomorrow.

    Oh, I think there’s a bit too much cyan in the sky. Just kidding.

  8. Posted February 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm by Nancy de Flon | Permalink

    Well done, Richard, the blog AND the photo! God save us from those “critics” who know exactly how our photo SHOULD look and proceed to tell us so.

  9. Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:30 am by Tom B | Permalink

    I missed this one when you posted it. I’m glad I went back and found it. I get so tired of hearing that my images are dark, it’s good to see I am not the only one. As you said that it might have been dark when the images where made as is the case with a lot of mine. Anyway 🙂
    When are you going to be in the Smokies? Not run into you in a while.

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