Friday, February 27, 2015

The Blue & Black, White & Gold Dress is Actually Gold and Periwinkle - Read to the End and Make Yourself See Both Dresses!

Everyone is wrong! The dress is gold and periwinkle, but learn to make yourself see both dresses!

I was teaching a class yesterday and someone showed me a photo on a phone and said, "What color is this dress?" Of course everyone disagreed, but I saw a "blue tinted white and gold".  So I decided that since today is a snow day here in Albuquerque, NM where I reside, I would sit down and do some analysis and then chime in on the argument.  And for those of you that are scared you may be color blind or have dysfunctional cones… skip to the end, despite what Business Insider may say, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN and your cones aren’t “higher or lower” functioning!  You can see both dresses for yourself!


Do not use a phone or camera to take a photo and judge color without a known reference!  Sure if you’re in the dressing room and need a friend’s opinion it might be helpful, but definitely not a trustworthy form of color conveyance!  If color is important, leave it to the professionals who spend hours using tools to color correct images and calibrate the entire color pipeline from camera to monitor to printer to show the most accurate color possible!


We need to first determine which question we are asking ourselves about this image!  Is the question, “What color is this pixel?”, “What color is this dress as depicted in this image?”, or a question about that specific image?   If so, we can easily measure it.


Color can be measured on several different coordinate systems and naming schemes.  There’s La*b*, RGB, CMYK, color frequency (vibration of color waves), Pantone™ color, Kelvin Temperature, and even Crayola™ Crayon colors to name a few.  Colorimetry is a large field of science all in its own right and is very important in the printing and online or catalog retailing industries.
Since this infamous dress photo is shared via Facebook, BuzzFeed, and other digital means, let’s look at RGB values which is how the color of light is measured on displays such as on phones, laptops, and computer monitors.
The RGB scale measures the relative lightness or darkness of Red, Green, and Blue as they are added together in the form of light (Additive color – see Wikipedia link for further explanation).  The RGB scale is in 8 bit format, meaning that each color is identified by the computer as 8 places of zeros or ones.  There are 28 = 256 different possible values for each of the 3 colors. However, instead of starting the counting at 1, RGB starts counting at 0, so the values are inclusively between 0 and 255.  The RGB value of 0, 0, 0 means there is 0% red light, 0% green light, and 0% Blue light, or total darkness (i.e. Black).  The RGB value of 255, 255, 255 is 100% of each color, the presence of all light (i.e. white).  There are 16,777,216 uniquely identifiable colors in the RGB coordinate system.  Not all monitors and printers are capable of producing every single one of those colors (again another lesson on color space – see Wikipedia for more details), but there are that many potential colors.

I opened the image in Adobe Camera Raw.  First I recovered the highlights (which I know is not a great technique when starting with a jpeg image), and set the darkest pixel to absolute black, just to center the histogram so the whites and blacks just kiss the edges.  I used a color picker to get the RGB values of 5 different samples.  I chose three samples on the "gold/black" part and 2 samples on the "white/blue" part and plotted them on a color wheel using Adobe’s Kuler software. 

The "gold/black" samples fall in the yellow/orange realm, which I think could be characterized as "gold” toned and the "white/blue" samples fall in the blue/purple realm which I would characterize as “periwinkle” blue.

AND THE ANSWER IS… (drumroll please!)…

With that information, if the question is, “What color is this pixel?” or, “What color is this dress as depicted in this image?”, then the answer is GOLD AND PERIWINKLE!  What an odd colored dress!  They don’t NOT go together, but I think I would prefer to wear white with gold lace or periwinkle with black lace!
Now if we ask the question as posed, “What color is this dress?” then until this dress is photographed next to a Macbeth chart (a calibrated tool of known color values used for color correction for commercial photography – see below) or I see it in person… it’s up for interpretation! 
Image by for educational illustrative purposes

With the only information given as this image, you really don’t know where the origin (the zero point for absolute white and absolute black) lies.  Until we also know what color space we are talking about (such as Adobe RGB, sRGB, etc), which is a lesson for another article, we can’t name the exact specific color.  However, with an origin, we could at least tell the difference between white and blue and gold and black.


Our brains are trying to interpret the pixel data into meaning by making an assumption, but our collective brains can't agree which assumption is correct.  As painters know, “white” is a relative term when in reference to time of day and what’s around it.  It can also vary by how much the surface reflects light compared to surfaces near it (think of our “white moon” - black moon rock that reflects white compared to the black sky, absent of light).  The color of twilight in early morning,  just before the sun is up or just after the sun goes down casts a blue hue to everything, yet your brain adjusts for the blue hue and can still identify colors.  Conversely, think of the warm tones and bright light when you are driving into the sunset with the sun in your eyes.  Everything appears to have a yellow orange tint to it, but your brain adjusts and you can still identify a red stop sign or green grass.


People that see white and gold recognize the Blue as white and shift their coordinate system based on that origin.  They are assuming that the image is taken with a blue color shift and UNDER exposed (darker than it should be once your eyes adjust in person) and assume that the "white/blue" in the dress is the absolute white on the color balance origin. Their brains translate the periwinkle color as “white” similar to how you would see a picket fence in the early morning blue twilight (image of a white object shifted too cool on the Kelvin scale).  Their brains just think it was taken in bad lighting and make a judgment to identify a bad photo of a white and gold dress. 
Here is an image with the white balance color picker placed on the periwinkle part of the dress.  Now Team Blue and Black can see what Team White and Gold sees if it were in “good light” as they judge it to be so.


People that see black and blue recognize the gold as black and shift their coordinate system in the opposite direction. They assume that the image is taken with a warm color shift and OVER exposed (brighter than it should be once your eyes adjust in person) and the "gold/black" is the absolute black point on the color origin.  This would be like seeing someone in a black shirt at sunset with the light blaring on them and tinted yellow/orange (image of a black object shifted too warm on the Kelvin scale).  Their brains also think it is terrible lighting, but make a judgment to identify that it is a bad photo of a blue and black dress.


With all the information given, let’s look at two of the color picker samples – the darkest of the gold samples and lightest of the periwinkle samples.

Now granted, identifying colors on a relative scale is tricky to judge.  However, when looking at the empirical data shown above, take a gander at the bottom slider.  That slider shows how light or dark that combination of colors in in the same ratio.  If all RGB colors are the same number (e.g. 18, 18, 18), then the color is neutral and not tinted one way or the other.  If it has a tint, that bottom bar show that tint all the way to the high side and low side.  All the way to the left would be the closest to black, and all the way to the high side would be closest to white.
From the two sample points above, The Periwinkle is closer to white than Gold is closer to black.  I would have to side with Team White and Gold, however, I’m sure you could pull two other points to prove the other direction and recognition of relative color is also not always linear.
BUT… as of this writing, 72% of BuzzFeed readers (1,400,000 million people) agree!


As I was about to finish writing this article I unplugged my laptop and went and sat in an unlit room on the couch to get cozy (it is a snow day for me after all) and I pulled up the buzzfeed link again and… the dress APPEARED BLUE AND BLACK to me after I had been seeing a bluish-white and gold all along!  I was thinking, “WTF, mate!?! Did someone switch this image out on me or is it one of those images that fades from one to the other to trick you?  Did by unplugging my computer I switch into some other color space of rendering on my laptop?  No that can’t be because last night my whole class was gathered around a phone and people very clearly saw two different things!  Ok, what the schmekel is going on!?!”  (For those of you that don’t know, schmekel is a word I made up and insert randomly in phrases of amazement… also a nickname for my cat, but that’s beside the point).
Ok, remember all those optical illusions when you were a kid?  I think just by being in a “bluer” light when I changed locations my brain took the opposite assumption and I saw blue and black for a while, then I looked at something really blue and when I went back it was blue-ish white and gold again! 
Try these:
I created these graphics to try to make you see both dresses!  Blow this photo up as big as you can so it fills your screen.  I know these images are wider than my website blog, but it's important to see them big :)


Put your face close to the screen to it fills your vision and stare at the white and gold for 45 seconds, then immediately view the photo again.  You will see blue and black.  If the white starts to turn more blue, but the gold isn’t black yet, keep staring at the white and gold, then switch back.


Put your face close to the screen to it fills your vision and stare at the circle for 45 seconds, then immediately view the photo again.  You will see white and gold.  If the white starts still looks blue, but the gold isn’t black anymore, keep staring, then switch back.

So for those people who are claiming one is absolutely right or, “folks i do colors for a living and that dress is blue and black,” [sic], you can actually make your eyes change to view both.  Give it a try!!!! Kapow! Mind blown! 


Here is a link to the real mother of the bride that wore her blue and black dress to the wedding (or so they claim).  To be honest from a photographer’s viewpoint, blue and black is much more slimming and more mature than a white and gold dress.  So congrats Mom! You dressed very elegantly for your daughter’s very viral wedding!  It looks better on you in blue and black anyway!

HERE IS THE DRESS (or maybe just one very similar)

If you want to buy this dress, you can buy a very similar one here:
I can only imagine the memes and fashion trends that will follow this incident!
Enjoy everyone! And I will return to making snowballs and sipping tea with my kitty cat on this very snowy day. Peace out internet - back to real work!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fall Light is Beautiful for Downtown Albuquerque Headshots

As I walk out on my back porch after dinner I can just feel the light change from late summer to fall.  I've been doing a lot of head shots for women lately here in Albuquerque.  The light is so gorgeous that when we shoot downtown, the urban background turns into a creamy backdrop and reflects beautiful diffused light over their skin.  Although I retouch every headshot image, the early autumn light kisses their cheeks so I really don't have to do too much to their skin.  This is my new favorite spot for female professional headshots in Albuquerque.  See what you think :)

Susan needed some business card photos for her new Real Estate company.  Her boss thought she was so pretty, he wants to make her the face of her company!! You might see these in a few new Real Estate ads sometime soon.

This young gal is a social media and SEO expert and needed a headshot for her website and business cards.  (She just got married the week before in AZ - can you tell she's still glowing!!!)

Elke is also a Realtor, and I loved this photo of her.  I loved the chunky necklace that she brought with her.  This last photo is of Susan again.  She brought along an old high school friend for moral support and he just bought a new Viper - so of course we had to take the obligatory hot rod photo!!  :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meet Baby Mia

Welcome to the world Baby Mia!

Kelly and her family are from Santa Fe, NM and ventured down to Albuquerque for a little adventure with brand new Mia and their 2 year old, Alexander. She brought her parents to help out with the older one and take him to the park after he rocked his part of the photoshoot. He was very excited to see that Baby Mia came out of mom's tummy and was now here to hold and cuddle with. He is a very loving and gentle older brother. After the photo shoot and the park, he told his grandparent's "This is the best day EVER!"

 I love little Mia's big lips and tiny fingers. She is so cute and slept through her entire shoot. Not too bad for an eventful Day 4 of her life! 

I found the wooden bowl at an antique store and the teal boucle scarf was her mom's.  We put her in a silver alloy  Nambe platter with her little scarf to keep her warm. Even when she woke up towards the end, she let me pose her little hands to be so cute.  She was so cute and posed for us like a little model.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sante Fe La Posada Wedding Photography of Ashley and John Paul

 Just a few of Ashley's beautiful wedding details!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Super Fun Christmas Photo Gifts - Albuquerque Portrait Photographers

Christmas is only a few short weeks away.  Personalized Photo gifts can be the perfect gift for those hard to buy for family members!  While hanging enlargements and canvases on your wall can be gorgeous, photography can be fun and functional too!  Here are just a few of the fun new products we just started carrying for Christmas this season!  We can create custom photo gifts from the pictures from your photography sessions this year, or you can book a Family Portrait Session in November or December. Don't forget to book your fun family portraits by Dec 7th if you want your gifts by Christmas and so that you can send out custom Holiday and Christmas cards too!!!

Custom Photo iPhone Cases from your Family Portraits

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, iphone cases,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, iphone cases,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Custom Canvas Photo Clusters to Show off Your Family, Wedding, or Newborn Portraits

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, canvas, canvas prints,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Super Cute Custom Metal Ornaments with your Favorite Photos

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, photo ornaments,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, photo ornaments,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Create Photo Coasters - Choose from Cork-back or Set in Mahogany Wood

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, photo coasters,  Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, photo gifts

Holiday and Christmas Cards are Designed Custom at the Studio

Albuquerque Portrait Photographers, Albuquerque Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photos, Wedding Pictures, wedding photography, Christmas cards, Holiday cards

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Albuquerque Senior Portrait Photographers - Casey Menaul High School Senior Pictures

Albuquerque Senior Portrait Photographers - Casey's Menaul High School Senior Pictures

Casey's mom, Mary, purchased this Senior Portrait Package through a silent auction that Ell Photography had donated to High Heels for High Hopes to benefit the March of Dimes.  Casey  is a Senior at Menaul School in Albuquerque, NM.  He plays football and runs track and is just an all around great guy.  He took his Senior Portraits down the Phoenix Agency with hopes of modeling and they liked him right away!  It's too bad he doesn't have more time outside of all his extra-curricular activities because he could really make a career out of it here.  

High School Senior or Model? Why not Both!

We also photograph modeling portfolios and can print 8x10 headshot sheets, zed cards and composite cards for models and actors.  With high school seniors wanting to start out in modeling or acting in Albuquerque, generally you might only need to add a few looks to your Senior Portraits to get a good well rounded modeling portfolio.  If you take your Senior Pictures down in your modeling interview they can advise you what angles or looks they want you to add. Of all the modeling agencies in Albuquerque,  I would recommend going first to the Phoenix Agency.  I've had really good luck working with print and runway models from there.

You know what they say about the way guys treat their moms - so Casey has got to be a gem of a find for all you high school girls out there!

I like to get creative with Senior Portraits and we wanted to create something really dramatic where his shadow is larger and even tougher than he is in real life - kind of foreshadowing where he'll be in a few years if he sticks with his football career.

Check out other High School Senior Picture Sessions :

Emily from Sandia Prep - Albuquerque High School Senior Portraits taken Downtown 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Albuquerque Newborn Photography of Baby Genevieve - The Best Sleeper I've EVER Worked With!

Meet Baby Genevieve - Newborn Photography by Albuquerque Photographer Ell Photography

How precious are newborn baby smiles!?!  Meet Baby Genevieve!
I originally met Jackie and Harley back in September for an awesome maternity photography session in the Albuquerque bosque right when all the sunflowers were blooming.  Well, now they are back for their new little bundle of joy's newborn photography session!!  I found out that Jackie was decorating the nursery with vintage Winnie the Pooh - which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:
"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart" - Pooh Bear
Jackie even brought over vintage Tigger and Piglet - all we were missing was Pooh!

When they first arrived, Genevieve was dead asleep after "partying" all night long :P so we decided to get a little adventurous and try the "baby hanging in a scarf" photo.  I've tried this a few times before, but there's not too many babies that stay asleep for the full process of getting them up there.  It took a few times, but the third time was a charm, and Newborn Baby Genevieve stayed perfectly asleep as mom swaddled her, dad held up her head, and I tied the scarf decoratively around the Aspen branch.  (Please note this is a composite photo and she was never actually hanging there all by herself.) Plus she was over a huge cushy cusion just in case! 

Jackie liked the color version with the pink backdrop the best (and used it for Baby Genevieve's Newborn Birth Announcements which turned out really cute).  I think I like the Black and White version though.  Nambe actually is using the Black and white version of the photo in a big beautiful frame at their local Paseo and Wyoming store.  (P.S. Shameless plug - now that I am partners with Nambe - all my clients get a 10% off coupon!!! All the more reason to book a fun family photo shoot for your Christmas cards so you can use the coupon for your holiday shopping!)

Harley is a pilot at Kirtland Airforce Base and he came up with the awesome idea of taking newborn pictures of Baby G in his arms wearing his flight suit.  He is such a  sweet Dad, I just love these photos!!  They melt my heart!

Jackie is such a great mother too!!  There is so much love in this brand new little family!  I had ordered some cute little headbands from Etsy and they came in just in time for Baby G's newborn photo session which was perfect because then Jackie and Genevieve matched!

Such a  sweet sleeping baby!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Albuquerque Maternity Photos - Jackie and Harley at the Rio Grande Bosque

Jackie and Harley's Maternity Photo Session at the Bosque - Albuquerque Pregnancy Photographers

Click here to Book your own Maternity Photography Session

Jackie and Harley were in for a vibrant and colorful maternity session down by the river in the Albuquerque Bosque.  It was almost mid-September and the sunflowers were taking over along the water and in the trails in the woods.  They are so cute together that the setting was perfect for lifestyle like maternity photos!

Jackie and Harley are so cute and playful, they look like they jumped out of a fairy tale and in front of my camera.  I wish them the best with the new baby!  I LOVE the foot pop!

They booked the Baby and Belly Maternity and Newborn Photography Package
They can't wait to meet the newest member of their family in less than a month!!!  I can't either! :D

What to see next?

Book a Maternity or Newborn Photography Session
Click here to see Jackie and Harley's baby newborn photos!!
Also take a look at some other Albuquerque Newborn Photography of Baby Chloe and
Baby William Sleeping through his Newborn Photo Session or
Baby Luke's Newborn Session up in Sante Fe or
Twin Baby Tanner and Baby Lea's 4 month Session!

Do you have a newborn baby on the way? Consider checking out our Belly and Baby Maternity and Newborn Photography Package!

Get other Maternity Photography ideas from Beth who did her pregnancy pictures at her home in the foothills or Angelica who did a timelapse of her growing baby bump!