The confusing world of color: What it’s like to be a colorblind photographer
posted Monday, March 13, 2017 at 2:00 PM EDT
As photographers, a lot of what we focus on is light and color. While some of you reading this are certainly affected by color blindness, photographer Jason Futrill experiences a significant level of color blindness that limits his ability to see a “normal” spectrum of color. He has “strong protan” color blindness, which means that he can see “anywhere from 5% to 10% of the shades that can be seen by those that have no form of color vision deficiency.”
How this affects Futrill’s ability to see and decipher scenes is best said by himself: “The easiest way for me to explain this is to compare it to not being taught the name of many shades of colors. I can easily depict sky blue when it is a solid color on its own. I can pick out shades of green that are very similar to grass when there is not a mish-mash of other greens (or yellows which technically greens are as I find out every time I try to saturate regions of images in Lightroom or Photoshop). I can fairly easily pick out shades of yellow such as canary yellow or those that are similar to the sun. I know fire trucks are red. But here is where things get really confusing – mash a lot of those colors together into a scene, throw in variations and mixtures of those colors that produce different shades, add some cyan or magenta or pink (what colors are those anyway and why does the world need them?) and what we have is a whole mess of confusion that just doesn’t make sense to me.”
For most of us, we generally see our own images the same way others do, as best we can tell. There is a congruency between how I describe color in images with how others describe color. I’ve always taken this for granted, but for Futrill, a pink sunset just isn’t a pink sunset. That doesn’t mean he can’t photograph beautiful pinks, as seen below, but it means that for him to process that image, adjusting sliders can prove difficult. Imagine trying to bring out the pinks in a sky when you simply cannot see them. It’d be tricky, right?
On the other hand, Futrill can handle some colors and scenes well. “I believe the best images I produce are waterfalls in forests,” he says, “I also believe that the simplicity of the shades of greens (and yellows) in those types of scenes are a big part of the reason why I seem to produce these types of images well. There are no blues, reds, oranges, pinks, purples and whatever made up color names you non-color retarded people want to throw into the mix to confuse my simple brain. Just simple greens with a good mix of yellow, nice white water and hopefully some awesome yellow rays of light that to add a nice touch to them. I can easily handle that. I don’t need to ask anyone if the colors are correct.”
To learn more about Futrill’s work and how he handles being a colorblind photographer, read his full article here. It’s also interesting to read why he doesn’t exclusively shoot black and white. After all, “Apparently the world is a very colorful place, so that’s what I still like to achieve in the images I produce. Sometimes it just takes me a little longer to achieve that than others,” Jason Futrill says.