Monday 21 March 2011

Photographic Blues

It is well known that photographing blue things is difficult. Why?

I would like to understand this so that I can make suitable adjustments to my technique - if indeed this is possible.

The other day I photographed some "purpley" Iris Reticulata at the base of my Crab Apple tree, and the colour-reproduction seemed just fine, but when I photographed them again a few days later they appeared much bluer. Similarly I photographed some Hyacinths that we bought as cut flowers, and the photos made them look really blue, whereas they were actually a deep "lilac" colour

Is it something to do with the levels of natural light, or the quality of the light? A while ago I took some pics of the Crocuses in my garden, at a time of low light levels (I remember saying they were reluctant to open up) and they looked like this:

When I photographed the same group of flowers on a day of bright sunshine, on the photos they looked a completely different colour - almost mauve rather than blue (which is how they look to the naked eye).

Today I photographed this little flower, (is it an Anemone Blanda?) which has self-seeded next to my path. In my photo it appears to be bright blue, but "in the flesh" it is pretty much the same colour as those Crocuses. When I took the photo it was late afternoon and the sun had gone down.

Can anyone help me with this matter? Any advice you can give would be gratefully received!


  1. I may be wrong but check your white balance settings, even changing them on the camera you can see some of the impact as the colors are warmer or cooler. I'm guesing you used built in flash on the 2nd to last shot and not the last one or? Same with the hyacinths, Built in flash tends to wash out and flatten colors. Put the camer on a tripod, adjust the white balance for the situation and turn off the built in flash. Hope that helps or is at least a live trail to chase down...

  2. I adjust the colours on the computer...cheating!

  3. Hmm, I don't rightly know, and nor did I know that blue was difficult to photograph. You know that I will now go off in search of blue things to take photos of tomorrow, don't you.

    I love the last little flower, very pretty petals.

  4. Technically speaking, blue is no different to photographing any other colour. The purple effect only occurs when photographing living plants/flowers and, I'm led to believe, is caused by the way blue flowers reflect light.

    The problem is not confined to digital photography, nor is it a new phenomena. Bluebell woods, in particular, have given photographers a problem since the advent of colour film. It is an issue that film manufacturers struggled with for years. Some developed emulsions that partly solved the problem, i.e. Fuji. However, with digital sensors suffering from the same problem, it is something we either have to live with or master advanced techniques in the likes of Photoshop.

  5. Hello Mark,
    visiting via Hazel's blog.

    I just googled "photograhping blue flowers" and came upon a great's got to do with blue waves being shorter as they are at the end of the light spectrum...have a look at

    I have had good results when the flowers are not in direct sunlight...a more natural colour and not washed out.



  6. A good topic Mark. I have the same issues too. I found that taking picture of purple colour or blue are better during cloudy day rather than sunny day;-).


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