Another Post About “The Dress”

You know the dress.  You’ve seen the dress.  The whole darn internet has seen “The Dress.”

Don’t worry, we’re not about to debate the color of the dress here.  Quite enough families have been estranged lately getting into those arguments.

To be honest, when I first started seeing this thing crop up all over my Facebook feed, my initial thoughts were: “Seriously?  Who cares?!”  I went through the whole “this-is-what’s-wrong-with-social-media” thing, befuddled and bemused by America’s obsession with absolute triviality.  (I mean, there are people dying and being tortured and sold into slavery, but holy moly, stop the presses, WHAT COLOR IS THE DARN DRESS?!  But too much of that will get us into a whole different rant, and we don’t have time for that.)

But it honestly got to the point where I was like this:

There have been a lot of posts going around trying to figure out why on earth people see it differently, and everyone seems to have their own theory.  This post isn’t really even about that; I’m not a scientist and I haven’t got the time to conduct a study on how people perceive color.

What I am is a photographer.  And that is the perspective I had when looking at The Dress.  For me, it isn’t about color perception, or color blindness, or the visible light spectrum.

To me, this whole dress thing comes down to one thing: white balance.  Which leads me (at long last) to why I would write a post about The Dress.  (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a purpose here!)  Because after I stopped thinking my first thoughts, I got to my second thought, which is:

“And this is why you hire a professional photographer!”

Now, I do realize that the person who snapped the original image on her phone isn’t exactly going around claiming that she’s a photographer or anything.  However, there is this perniciously pervasive attitude these days that “everyone is a photographer.”  Because everyone can have easier access to advanced camera equipment, and even basic point-and-clicks are getting better and better, people have this utterly false notion that anyone with a camera is ready to be a great photographer.  But when you look at the image of the dress on their website, or even the snapshot posted later of the woman actually wearing the dress to an event, no one is denying that the dress is unquestionably blue.  No one is trying to claim that it’s really white and gold.  Or any other color, for that matter.

Because when someone knows what they’re doing, there isn’t going to be a question.  We don’t have to make our eyes do the limbo to try and figure out what color something is.  The fact is that the original post of The Dress has a white balance that is so bad I don’t think I could duplicate it if I tried.  It is so bad that people can’t even agree on what they’re looking at.

This may have been a pretty extreme instance, but it is, I think, a great example of the way people snap pictures willy-nilly, trusting their camera to get the white balance and lighting right, without learning how to do it themselves.  It’s usually much less jarring, but most people do get their colors a little off, especially when working with tricky lighting.  A really good professional photographer knows how to customize to the individual lighting, they know how to manipulate it just right so that the colors look appropriate.

There’s a lot of different types of lighting in a wedding — there’s different lighting in the church versus outside versus the reception venue.  Morning light, afternoon light, evening light as your wedding day progresses.  There is constant adaptation on the part of the photographer, and the average person with a camera doesn’t know how to handle each of these situations.  I can’t begin to list all the wedding shots I’ve seen where the bride’s beautiful white dress looked a little gray or pink or yellow due to poor handling of the lighting situation by a less-skilled photographer.  Or the bridesmaids’ dresses turned an odd color when exposed to lower, softer light at the reception.  You want your wedding photos to be flawless, you want your day to be perfectly preserved.

So why should you hire a professional photographer?  Because you don’t want those lovely blue dresses you got for your bridesmaids to come out looking a little yellowish.

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