Phone camera - colours of plants not accurate

When taking photos of plants on my phone in particular flowers… the light or camera itself will take a picture that differs in colour from real life.
This is making ID later on challenging and makes poor reference when I am learning.
What solutions are there to stop this happening?
I am a bit new to photography.

If it differs greatly, the issue may be that settings on your phone camera got set to something weird accidentally. It’s worth checking.

I am not even sure what settings too look at … I’ve been debating getting a professional camera but perhaps I need a class on phone cameras too… for instance a flower that is blue is coming out purple :S

ok so when I look at the picture on my laptop it is acurate… blue.
but on my phone same picture looks purple

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Every phone is different which is why I can’t give you more specific tips. You certainly aren’t alone! I had a month where I accidentally swapped some setting on my phone’s camera and was so frustrated that it would no longer focus for closer shots until I figured out what I had done.

In the photo you shared, it may be a product of lighting rather than camera settings. Oftentimes, I stand over the flower I’m photographing so that it is in my shadow reducing the glare of the sun on bright days.

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Even a camera with slide film or the best digital camera will have problems with colour. Especially if over or underexposed. The best is to get one of the small colour chart folders available from some camera shops and take the plant with it. It will also serve as a scale. It is easily corrected on the phone or better with a good program.


Often color issues are caused by the white balance setting, which typically is set to automatic unless you changed it. The “sun” setting tends to lean towards cooler colors (e.g. more blue) while the “cloudy” setting tends to lean warmer (e.g. more purple). Settings like “sunrise/sunset” may be the most extreme in leaning to warmer colors so check if maybe it was accidentally set to that.

Often, digital cameras will have the opposite issue. I notice a lot of purple flowers coming out blue on pictures. If you search the internet for purple and digital photography, you can find plenty of websites and forums talking about that phenomenon.


if you get the actual color of the petal from the picture, i’m seeing that on an HSV or HSL scale, the H (Hue) value is roughly 255 (degrees), which translates to a bluish purple. (H = 0 would be red, H = 60 would be yellow, H = 120 would be green, H = 180 would be cyan, H = 240 would be blue, and H = 300 would be magenta.)

if you saw something more blue, it’s possible that the phone’s white balancing is just off. for example, below is the same picture, with hue shifted -15 degrees. this makes the petals looks more blue to me.


but if the grass now looks like the wrong green, then probably white balancing is not the issue. (if the grass looks fine in this corrected image, then check your white balancing settings.)

it looks like your phone is a Samsung S8. a lot of phones like this will take photos in a “Vivid” color mode by default, which can make colors look a little bit off. going to a “Natural” mode might give you more accurate colors.

if neither white balancing nor color mode changes help, then the issue is probably just the way the camera is seeing or interpreting the colors. this is a harder thing to correct. different cameras will just capture different colors differently. in your case, if all blues are shifted slightly, then you might be able to do a custom color profile on the camera to adjust for this.

however, if blues are wrong only in some cases, what may be happening is that the camera is seeing colors outside of the normal range of human vision and using those when interpreting the color. for example, it may be seeing some infrared that you’re not able to see, and it could be interpreting that as extra red, shifting the blue to more purple. in that situation, the only thing that will really help is a (better) IR filter (or post-processing).

one more thing to consider is when you saw it with your own eyes, were you looking through glasses of some sort? i suppose most glasses would tend to block out blue light, but maybe yours are enhancing blue light somehow?


Something to keep in mind here is that different screens also have different color profiles- so the screen on your phone will render color one way while the screen on your computer might render the same color slightly differently, from the same photograph. This is why professional photographers program their editing screens to custom color calibrations that match the output of the printers they’re using. So it can be hard to say that the camera itself is even what’s at fault here.


Adding to this, some phones (including the S8) can shoot in both JPEG and RAW. If the colours are really bothering you, you can set it to take the picture in both formats, use the JPEG as usual if everything’s ok, otherwise edit the RAW on computer (I use RawTherapee since it’s free and the most intuitive out of those I’ve tried) to get the colours right. That said, at that point your worflow is closer to what you’d have with a DSLR, you’re losing a lot of the practicality of phones.


Unfortunately, “colors in real life” do not exist. Even assuming that all people see the same color (which is not true), “color” is based on a sum of factors, each of which is inconstant. In the case of a digital screen photo, these are features at a minimum: the lighting when taking the photo, the camera sensors, the processing of the data from the sensors by the camera when writing to media, and the color rendering of the screen.

So, as @robertarcher397 correctly wrote, the only reliable way to understand “real” colors is to use a reference color scale. Like, for example, this photo of a herbarium sample:

In all other cases, you can only try to match colors by feeling (with camera settings or photo post-processing) that appear to be similar in nature. But on the screen of another device, they may indeed look quite different. There is no simple solution to this issue. For example, in professional printing, screens and printing equipment are calibrated together in a special way to reproduce the same tones.

That is, even if you find settings that make the colors on your screen look “like in real life”, other users on their devices may see them differently.

So, the problem of transferring colors from “real life” to an electronic screen cannot be solved by the settings of any camera, alas. This does not mean, however, that it is not necessary to correct obvious color imbalance.


To me this means that the issue is not with the camera but the display, you may want to adjust the title of this topic accordingly. If a photo you took looked wrong on all screens it would be a camera issue (likely white balance), but if it is only on your phone screen then it is the phone’s display.

This probably isn’t the case but one thing you may want to look into is if the phone has a blue light filter on. Many phones these days have this, whether it stays on all the time or only after sunset.


I don’t see anything wrong with that picture, it’s a phone photo with colours off because of the hue, but we here are used to it, you can change photos by using different modes or use the sun button and move it to the night, it allows to get less bright photos, they often will be more correct in colours.

Every method of recording an image has its own biases. The recording device and the viewing device can affect the image. The best you can do is to learn all you can about how to manipulate your device to achieve the best results you can from it.

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The “chromatic subjectivity” of photos shot by just about every camera, whether an expensive DSLR or a smartphone, is always a major problem when identifying life forms where colour is an important factor. Although there’s no foolproof one-click answer, there is a trick that can go a long way to eliminating the subjectivity. Simply take with you something more or less white (a sheet of white paper, a paper tissue, a piece of white cloth etc.), then take at least one picture of the subject with at least two-thirds of the frame occupied by the white sheet, tissue or whatever. This is often enough to correct the camera’s white balance without doing anything else, or if not, it can help you correct the colours in post processing. If all else fails, it provides a visual clue as to how far out the white balance actually is. Obviously with skittish insects, it’s not always possible to take that extra photo, but taking a shot with the white sheet in the same light with the same background still makes a good white-balance reference.


Some digital CCDs are just weak at properly differentiating blues and purples. I think it’s ok to relax about color fidelity a bit, since as long as the color family is right, it’s probably not a key characteristic for identification.
But as people have said, a white scale marker or reference card will go a long way towards sorting it out later, and capturing size accurately is important - scraps of graph paper and business-card rulers are functional for this.

I activated HDR in my cam settings. This lets the camera take additional photos automatically, solving the problem of green leaves or flower colors against a bright sky.

Camera colours are not accurate. Phone camera colours are even less accurate because of the geometry of short lens stacks.
I remember a couple of years ago a photo of a girl in a stiped top circulating with a challenge to identify the real colours. The stripes were light and dark blue on a photo taken in full sunlight. At the end of the challenge, another photo taken in the shade was published showing grey and white stripes.
We can adjust perception based on the time of the day and light conditions, a camera cannot.

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Sounds like you have a yellow shift on your phone. This is to ease looking at screens; as blue light is harsher to eyes. You can control that setting on iPhones in settings - display and brightness. Make sure true tone is on and night shift is off. Other phones have similar yellow shift features to make it easier on the eyes and its likely in similar setting areas. Usually yellow shift on phones is default on these days and you have to turn it off.

isn’t adjusting for light conditions the whole idea behind white balancing in a camera?


Point and shoot ‘Auto’ modes and most smartphone defaults share the problem of colour intensification. More vivid greens, perky blues and reds. It’s because that’s what most non-naturalists want.

If your phone has a ‘pro’ shooting mode, you may be able to shut that off. (I know I can with my Samsung).

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