Red Channel Clipping

It is sometimes said that 'The Camera Loves Red'. Well, sometimes it loves it to death. Sometimes a camera will overexpose a particular color, rather than the whole picture. This happens a lot with red. It's not a Canon problem, or a Nikon problem, it's just a problem with digital cameras, both expensive and inexpensive. Here's a sample provided by Miranda that happened to be from an Olympus:
Tulip Field
Tulip Field
Ok, as you look at this really lovely picture you'll see that the red parts of the picture have no detail in a lot of spots. The red channel is 'clipped' or 'blown out', and the highlights detail is just gone in those spots. You can play with the picture in a photo editor to make the problem less noticeable, but you can't get that detail back, it's just gone. That particular color is overexposed. Here's what the histogram looks like for this picture:
tulip field histogram
Tulip Field Histogram
This is the histogram for the RGB channels from Photoshop Elements 7. As you can see, over on the right the red channel is spiked clear to the top, and there's a little exclamation mark 'uh-oh'. That red being pinned all the way to the right and to the top is a definite overexposure, just as having part of the histogram pinned all the way to the left would be underexposure, which you can see is happening in the blue channel. The thing to do is to check your histogram on your camera if possible, and if you can, change your exposure a little, or dial down your camera's saturation level, which basically means how bright or vibrant your colors are in your picture. Not all cameras will let you do this, so another alternative is to shoot your pictures in RAW, which allows you more leeway for adjusting your photographs, which means fiddling around in a photo editor until it looks better. Ok, but what if you don't want to fiddle in a photoeditor, your camera won't let you see an RGB histogram, and it won't let you adjust saturation or exposure? Learn to deal with red blobs and tell your friends it's your new style? Stick with yellow flowers? It's an option... No? Well, usually this issue comes up in bright sunlight, so basically you may have to change when you go photograph flowers, if possible, to a time that is not midday, or you may have to put the flower in the shade somehow by either standing between the flower and the sun or having someone hold a newspaper or something up to block the light and see if that works. It may require some experimentation to find what works best for you. If your camera will allow you to change the exposure, or bracket exposures, you may try that, since it is an overexposure problem. Also make sure you are not on a 'vivid color' setting, dial it down to neutral or standard. Hope this helps! So basically there's not one easy answer, but if it makes you feel any better, you're not alone. 🙂

4 Replies to “Red Channel Clipping”

  1. Oh so that means I can do nothing about this. I think I had tried taking the red flowers under cloudy sky, as far as I can remember, it was even worse. Maybe next time I can try lowering the brightness (the only thing I can adjust I believe with my inexpensive simple Olympus). Thanks for your lesson! 😉

    1. You can try it, I hope it works. Maybe try adjusting everything you can adjust, one thing at a time, and see if there is anything on your camera that makes a change to your exposure. Prices are coming down on cameras all the time, so maybe you can eventually switch to something with more options on the menu. 🙂

Comments are closed.