Complete active space self-consistent field (CASSCF), multireference configuration interaction (MRCI), density functional theory (DFT), time dependent DFT (TDDFT) and the singles and doubles coupled-cluster (CC2) methodologies have been used to study the ground state and excited states of protonated and neutral Schiff bases (PSB and SB) as models for the retinal chromophore. Systems with two to four conjugated double bonds are investigated. Geometry relaxation effects are studied in the excited ππ* state using the aforementioned methods. Taking the MRCI results as reference we find that CASSCF results are quite reliable even though overshooting of geometry changes is observed. TDDFT does not reproduce bond alternation well in the ππ* state. CC2 takes an intermediate position. Environmental effects due to solvent or protein surroundings have been studied in the excited states of the PSBs and SBs using a water molecule and solvated formate as model cases. Particular emphasis is given to the proton transfer process from the PSB to its solvent partner in the excited state. It is found that its feasibility is significantly enhanced in the excited state as compared to the ground state, which means that a proton transfer could be initiated already at an early step in the photodynamics of PSBs.