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My Confession – I’m a Colour Blind Photographer

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Okay, so here it is – photography can be a challenge at the best of times, but when you’re a colour blind photographer like me it can make it that much harder.

Colour blindness is a term used to describe a persons inability to see colour. The term colour blindness is really a misconception as people can see colours however they may not be able to distinguish between colours. In most cases it is referred to as being colour deficient not colour blindness.

Like me, if you’re unable to see colours you probably won’t be an achromatopsia sufferer. Fortunately, I can still tell if a traffic light is green or red (thank goodness!) but when it comes to identifying colours in photographs I freak out.

The reason, I don’t feel complete – I think theres a few rods and cones missing?

If you didn’t know it already there’s three basic kinds of colour deficiency. Let me explain:

1) Completely monochromatic vision, where two or three of the photo pigments in your eyes cones are missing.

2) Dichromacy occurs when you’re missing a pigment: red (protanopia), green (deuteranopia) or blue (tritanopia).
Anomalies occur where one of your cone pigments isn’t quite right and doesn’t have the right spectral sensitivity, resulting in a reduction of your ability to discriminate colours. The red and green pigments are the most similar so it is easier for differences in them to impact the ability to distinguish colours.

3) Protanomaly occurs when you have a slightly shifted red sensitivity, deuteranomaly occurs when your green sensitivity isn’t quite right. Tritanomaly is uncommon (as is tritanopia) and this occurs when your blue pigment isn’t right. This makes blue-yellow discrimination difficult.

When editing photos on my computer I don’t seem to have too much difficulty adjusting colour, however what I see is completely different. Over time I have learned where the colour sliders should be to best represent colour. Something that also helps a great deal is the camera’s RAW files.

I’m able to change the white balance setting in post production which automatically corrects the colour within the scene. The problems really start to occur when I play around with my photos using Photoshop or Lightroom. For instance, I may edit the colours within a seascape making the sunset more vivid, if I make a wrong move the rocks might turn a pink hue when all I wanted them to be was a natural colour.

I have no way of distinguishing if the colour is correct so I rely on users comments and my memory of colour tools in Photoshop as my best guidance. Most of the time in my photographs I get away with correct colour, however on the odd occasion someone spots a horrid colour and tells me about it.

When it comes to printing I leave it to the professionals as I have no clue what to do if a photo looks like it has too much magenta because at the end of the day I don’t know if it has too much magenta! Sounds a bit confusing but, I can tell you now it is more frustrating than anything else.

So in summary, I suppose I’m not alone, there are many photographers out there who experience the same thing as me and at the end of the day, I’ve just got to live with it…or do I?


Colour blind definitions by The Colorblind Photographer