I need advice about coping with cataracts while doing color photography

July 17th, 2018
I did a search of the discussions but nothing came up, so I do hope that someone can give me some advice about how to keep photo colors right when cataracts are changing how I see them.

A recent urban photo I took appeared yellowed and subdued when I opened it on the computer. I thought that I'd forgotten to zero my camera settings before taking it, so I tweaked it in Photoshop to punch up the color to what my original aim was. But when friends who don't have cataracts saw the photo, they told me that the image is far too bright now.

The eye doctor says that my cataracts have to get much worse than they are now before I can have anything done about them, even though they are apparently affecting how I see colors and fine print already.

The only thing she suggested was that I focus on B&W photography instead. While I enjoy doing B&W, I enjoy color photography more.

Any thoughts? technical advice? commiseration?

Thank you!
July 17th, 2018
This is what it said about cataracts "ripening" in the Harvard Medical Newsletter:
It's true that people used to have to wait until their cataracts hardened, or "ripened," before they could get cataract surgery. The operation involved removing the lens more or less intact through a fairly large incision in the eyeball. The results were better if the lens was solid, so it wouldn't fall apart as the surgeon extracted it.

But since the early 1990s, most cataracts have been removed by breaking up the lens into small pieces and then suctioning them out. Doing the surgery this way means that the lens doesn't need to be hard to be removed. In fact, it's more difficult to suction out the chunky pieces of a hardened lens. So now cataract surgery can be based on how much the cataract is affecting a person's vision, not on whether it is ripe. There are other advantages to the phacoemulsification technique, as the suction procedure is called. The incision is much smaller, so stitches often are not needed and the eye heals faster. The pocketlike lens capsule is left behind, and it helps hold in place the artificial lens that replaces the cataract. In about a third of patients, the back of the capsule clouds up, but that problem is easily treated by lasering a small hole in the capsule. The laser procedure is quick and painless.

Cataract surgery isn't risk-free. No surgery is. Infection, swelling, and bleeding in various parts of the eye can occur. But in something like 98% of cases, the vision of people who have cataract surgery improves.

By the time we turn 60, most of us will have some clouding of the lens. A noticeable increase in the amount of glare you experience can be a sign of a cataract, as can an overall increase in blurriness, although many different kinds of eye problems can cause glare or blurriness. There's no objective test for when you need cataract surgery. It's a question of how much the loss in vision is affecting you. Can cataracts be prevented? Ultraviolet light is hard on the eyes, so wearing sunglasses may help some, but the data on that are pretty inconclusive.

— Jeffrey S. Heier, M.D.
Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston
Harvard Health Letter Editorial Board
Share this page:

July 17th, 2018
@allie912 Thanks for the info. It will be helpful when I argue to have the procedure earlier than my optometrist says that I can. In the meantime, I guess that I'll ask my friends to let me known when my photo editing looks "off" colorwise.
July 17th, 2018
@bernicrumb I turned 50 this year and I am noticing a significant change in my eyesight although my optometrist said my eyesight hasn't deteriorated since my last visit (I have had glasses for about 4 years now) it is frustrating trying to do my edits because I also sometimes wonder if my vision is changing what I see and others see.

My laptop is also so different to what I see on my work computer and mobile... sometimes I put a picture online and later see it on another device and think it looks either better or worse.

My mother had cataracts removed quite a few years ago so I wonder if I am also getting them
July 17th, 2018
I can not stress enough the importance of consulting an ophthalmologist rather than an optometrist for such important medical decisions.
July 18th, 2018
@allie912 I will definitely do so, Allison. I don't want to end up losing my vision or my ability to practice my photography. Both are too important to me.
July 18th, 2018
@allie912 very useful information
July 18th, 2018
@ulla It is so frustrating, isn't it? I also have noticed that the colors show up differently depending on which screen I am seeing them on. I saw a thread earlier today about that problem and I need to go back to read it and see if I can sync the color registration of all of my screens that I work my editing on.
July 18th, 2018
i'm so sorry to hear you are dealing with this... i have no real knowledge, but a couple things i wondered about whether they would be worth trying...

one is i wonder whether it might be helpful to learn to read the histogram in LR or whatever editing tool you are using... i use the histogram and clipping masks a lot to manage pure black and white... i'm not sure if this would work with colours, but the curves do shift as you play with the sliders, so maybe it would be possible to you to learn the "clipping" zones of what becomes too vivid / over saturated?

the other is to find some presets that would give you the look and feel you are looking for, find someone you trust to describe them to you, and then use them for editing work...

not sure if any of this is in any way helpful - i really hope you find something that works for you!!!
July 18th, 2018
Bernie, I had both of my cataracts removed last year and I've seen a huge improvement. My optometrist said they weren't all that bad, but when I said it was affecting my ability to handle color and photography on the computer, he agreed that it was time to correct them. He felt there was no reason NOT to remove them when the time arrived that it was affecting "quality of life" (and my life evolves around my photography). Because I need a prism in glasses, I opted not to have a corrective lens inserted (as my husband did), but I'm all-but-rid of my severe astigmatism and I see so much better, even without glasses. With dark eyes (and cataracts, I seldom wore sunglasses, but I do find that I need them outside now as everything's so much brighter! I couldn't be happier, as are my husband, and several friends who also saw this same doctor in So California! Good luck to you! It's completely possible, and I'd look for someone who will listen to you!
July 21st, 2018
@Weezilou Thank you for sharing your story. I will most definitely look for a doctor who will pay better attention to my concerns. Photography has become so important to me and I don't want my aging body to take it away from me.
September 28th, 2018
I had cataract surgery a couple of years ago and was shocked by how much brighter the world had become. As I looked back on some of my older photos I got concerned about my brightness and color balance as well.

My 2 take-aways are: 1) to make sure my monitor is calibrated (I use ColorMunki)) and 2) to try to use my pocket (18%) grey card when I start shooting or when the lighting changes.

PS - I love the new brighter world.
Write a Reply
Sign up for a free account or Sign in to post a comment.