I had recent cataract surgery on both eyes, about a month apart for each eye. The doctor told me my vision would improve (a good thing). I was having the surgery because it was getting more difficult to see, especially close up. I knew it was time to do something when I realized I couldn't clearly read my weight on my bathroom scale, and I was sitting closer and closer to the computer when editing.
What I hadn't expected was a rather dramatic change in color vision. As a cataract adds yellow or brown to everything you see, if you remember to mix the primary colors, you will get Yellow(from cataract)+Red=Orange, Yellow(from cataract)+Blue=Green, Yellow(from cataract)+Red+Blue=Brown. In short, all colors are changed. I saw this effect after the first eye was operated on. Things that had been orange were now yellow. Skies were a more brilliant blue. The yellow and brown tint caused by the cataract changed everything, and since I still had one eye with cataracts, I could cover the good eye and see the difference easily. Or, as Dr. Brent Bellotte of the West Boca Eye Center says:
The changes are subtle and occur very slowly—we might not even notice the first stages. However, colors will gradually become more faded and take on a brown or yellow tinge. As the disease progresses, the ability to distinguish between darker colors, such as blue and purple, decreases.
Cataract color changes can begin in many people when they are in their 20s, and then, it usually gets progressively worse.
For most people, it's nice to get sharper vision, but a surprise to get the colors back. In pre-op conversation with my eye surgeon, he said to expect sharper vision, but not a word was mentioned about the change in color balance.
I'm primarily a landscape photographer, and a lot of my work is during the so-called golden hour. When I looked at recent edits after the surgery, they simply looked wrong. Lovely warm sunset colors were coming out an awkward yellow. Skies with mixed colors sometimes looked fine, at other times were slightly off. The further I went back into my archives, the better colors looked, which is logical, since cataracts get progressively worse.
Here's an example. It's a landscape image I took in April and edited. My edit looked fine.
After the surgery, I had another look at the image. I was shocked to see it looked like this:
I'm simulating to give you an idea what I saw. My carefully crafted sunset tones were a sickly yellow, greens were off, and the more blue the sky was, the worse it looked.
I'm going back and correcting things in my archives where needed. I'd love to write a script that would do it automatically, but the reality is each photo is different and needs different degrees of correction. Some require no correction. It depends on the mix of colors, and what would be most shifted because I was looking at the world through yellow-brown lenses.
None of the post-op color shifts were subtle. It was like entering a new world. The house I'd lived in for 15 years suddenly had some different color walls. I liked the false colors better.
Here's my hard-learned recommendation. If you depend on good color work and you have some degree of cataracts, your vision has been shifted toward the brown and yellow. Other colors are shifted too. There's not much you can do about this after the fact except re-edit. One consolation. People with advanced cataracts will see your images the same way you do!
If you've been told you have cataracts, it's probably a good idea to get the surgery. It's not considered risky, and most insurance covers it.
If you do get the operation, you'll see a whole (and more accurate) new world.