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Scientific Proof That The Dress is White and Gold

Scientific Proof That The Dress is White and Gold

I woke up this morning to a bunch of hubbub about "the dress". At first I didn't know what was going on. Then I didn't care. Then I thought it was some kind of prank. Then I became angry.

There are thousands of optical illusions out there, so I can understand how people see the image of the dress differently, but the fact is that this is simply a photo taken with poor white balance, and I'm going to prove it to you.

The Image in Question

Here is the photograph in question. To you, the colors are obvious, but ask 10 friends and see what kind of response you get.

Actual Color vs Perceived Color

One of the things I wanted to get out of the way first is that actual color is not always the same as perceived color.

The human eye does not see colors exactly for what they are, but instead compares them to surrounding objects. Our brain interprets the scene as a whole, giving us our overall perception of color.

That's just a long way of saying that colors don't always look like what they actually are, and is part of the reason why the paint you thought looked so good at Home Depot looks like baby poop on your walls at home.

If we sample colors directly from the photo using Photoshop, the actual colors are indeed blue.

Case closed, right? Not so fast. Take a look at the photo below of two identical white pieces of printer paper. On sitting in the sun, the other in the shade, but both captured at the same time.

What color are they? Well, you might say that they are both white, but what happens if we sample the actual colors in Photoshop.

One is clearly tan and the other is lavender. It's like we're looking at The Dress 2.0!

Are you freaking out yet?

There's no funny business going on here, just a difference in what photographers call White Balance.

What are Color Temperature and White Balance?

There are many different types of light: tungsten, fluorescent, candelight, daylight, skylight. Each one has its own color temperature.

I don't want to get super scientific with color temperature, so I'll try to explain it in a way that everyone can understand.

Tungsten lights have an "orange" tint to them. Think about the warm glow of old school light bulbs. Candlelight is even more orange.

Fluorescent lights traditionally have a green tint, although they have found ways to fix that in recent years. That's why many older hospitals and office buildings look so sterile. The green tint removes the warmth and life from skin tones, giving people a pale look.

Skylight, or the light that you see in the shade, has a blue cast. In the shade, nothing is hit directly with light from the sun, just indirect illumination from the rest of the sky, which is blue.

The point is that not all light is the same, and each type casts a tint that alters the color of objects that they illuminate.

Color Temperature and White Balance in Photography

In the photography world, we deal with different color temperatures in each and every photo we take. Luckily, we aren't stuck with whatever light happens to be around. We can correct the tint that each light puts out using White Balance.

White Balance lets us shift the tint of our photos so items that are white or gray in real life still look white or gray in our photos.

Altering the White Balance does NOT add or falsely manipulate colors. It shifts the "white point" so our eyes can more easily perceive the true colors in an image.

When you have multiple light sources in a photograph and shift the White Balance for one of them, the others start to look tinted with color.

In the image below I've corrected the White Balance for daylight, so the paper in the sunlight is a neutral white/gray. Notice that the piece of paper in the shade becomes more blue.

In the image below, I've corrected the White Balance for shade, so the piece of paper in the shade is now a neutral gray. This time, the white piece of paper in the sun becomes more orange.

This is the perfect example of how different types of light produce different tints of color.

The Real Color of "The Dress"

Now that you understand how color temperature affects how an image looks, let's correct the White Balance in the photo of "The Dress" to reveal it's true colors.

In this photo, the light source is clearly behind the dress, far away from the point of view of the camera. That means the front of the dress, which is in the foreground, is covered in shadow, giving it a blue tint.

If we correct the White Balance of the photo to represent what the dress looks like in real life, you can see that it is white and gold.

The "actual" colors in the poorly white balanced image may be blue and gold-ish, but in person, the dress is white and gold.

Correcting White Balance the Other Way

There are people who say that you can simply correct the White Balance the other way to make the dress black and blue. The image below shows the White Balance corrected to the color of the light in the background. The exposure has also been dropped so the background is more or less properly exposed.

The problem here is that it completely ignores the fact that the dress is backlit and the part of the dress we see is in the shade. Unless somebody is manually lighting the dress from the vantage point of the camera with a blue LED, the dress being black and blue would be breaking the laws of physics.

Looking at the color swatches in the last image, it's easy to see how people can perceive the dress as being black and blue, but with a little light knowledge and White Balance correction, we can all see the dress for what it really is.

That Settles it, The Dress is White and Gold


Now that you're convinced that the dress is white and gold, take a look at another photo of the dress from the original source.

You can see the post here: //

Is Your Mind Blown?

Make a bet with your friends who are convinced about the color of the dress, then share this article to prove them wrong!

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