White Balance Does Not Work The Way That They Say, Maybe Not For You, Definitely Not For Me

(Original posting date: 2016-07-27)

Spiritia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s quite common for photography writers to write something like, “The human eye… adjusts the colors you see,” whenever discussing white balance. I never encountered one of these articles that also referred to scientific research, and I am unsatisfied with the explanation.

For one thing: it’s not consistent with anything that I learned in physiological psychology or psychophysics regarding vision.

For another thing: it is extremely common for scientific-thinking people to disprove much of what photographers teach.

By Håkan Bergknut (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For another: it’s not consistent with my personal experience, which is more like this:

I don’t believe that my “human eye… adjusts the colours [I] see.” I am very aware of color temperature. I suspect that most photographers develop this awareness, and some people have always had it.

When I am in an environment with soft white light, that’s what I see, but it’s everywhere. It’s even affecting the color of the photos on my wall. If those were white balanced, then the light from the too-warm bulbs is affecting the colors of those photos exactly the same way that it’s affecting everything else in the room, so it’s tolerably similar, but not changed by my eyes.

I left that as a comment on a Picture Correct article on white balance, and Wendy disagreed, but her rebuttal is not actually inconsistent with my comment above. She wrote:

Some say it’s the “eye” that adjusts, some say it’s in the “brain,” point is, you DO adjust to a “normal” WB. If you’ve been inside with a bunch of tungsten–especially low-light, like in a theater–and then suddenly go outside, the world will be blue-shifted for a few seconds while you adjust.

I make temari (embroidered thread balls), and I’ve got one that’s got a design in blue and three shades of purple. Thing is, in dim light, your eyes will try to convince you it’s red, yellow, green and blue–that you’re just seeing it in a different “white balance” than you really are.

She gives an example of an adjustment here, but I am not convinced it is. To me it looks like an example of becoming aware of the different colors of light, but I am always aware of them, and people that think about light will be too.

The “human eye adjusts” isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s an expectation. Photographers think about white balance this way, because that’s what they have been taught, but in reality, they do see three shades of purple as non-purple, because there’s no real adjusting going on.

That said: adjusting white balance in your image is important, because the colors in your photo are affected by the light that you are viewing it in, exactly as much as every other color that’s in that same light. Your photos won’t look “right”.

On the other hand, by all means: monkey with white balance in order to meet your artistic goals.

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My KISS Story

(Originally posted on 2016-06-08)

By Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz (KISS) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I went to see KISS at the Glens Falls Civic Center in the 1980s. My seat was on the floor (where the hockey ice would be) way in the back, the seats in front of me were roped-off and watched by security. This kid walks up to the security guard and starts messing with him. While he is harassing the guard he looks at me and says, “What are you waiting for? Go!” So I go up to the stage.

When the concert starts I get crushed by bodies, but I know all these KISS songs, because I used to play them on bass; Robert Pulsifer, a guitarist, made sure that I knew them. So Gene is in front of me, and I am doing air-bass identical to what he is doing. All the people around me push back, and give me room (weird), and now I can really pretend to be Gene Simmons right in front of him. He is singing and watching my hands. Between songs they switch places, but before-going he leans over the bouncer pit and flicks his tongue at me.

That’s what KISS fans were like. They will crush you to get closer to the band, unless you need room. Also, they will mess-with-security for a stranger.

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“The Dress” (The Only 100% Accurate Explanation)

(Originally written in February of 2015 as /archives/date/2015/02)

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The original image.

Would black look gold without an optical illusion?

Some are saying that it’s a color constancy illusion. I will attempt to prove that’s not the case.

Bleached-blue could look white, and bleached-black could look golden-brown.

Each pixel may have a different color, but Photoshop’s color picker can do a 51 x 51 pixel average for us to get a more accurate estimate. In this version of the image, the golden section of the darker-colored stripes’ RGB values are:

  • Red: 121
  • Green: 106
  • Blue: 71

These values are like “shadow”, which is a golden brown. If our perception matches the actual technical colors, then we are not dealing with an optical illusion.

Why are the colors wrong?

Here is where the real problem lies:

Most people say that it’s white and gold.

tumblr_nkcjuq8Tdr1tnacy1o1_500
The original image.

On Buzzfeed 68% say “white and gold”, and 32% say “black and blue”.

Color Calibration?

Monitors are not color calibrated from the factory, so many people are not seeing accurate color.

Was the image white balanced?

We would hope to find white balance information in the image’s EXIF, but it’s not there. So how do we white balance this image? The dress in the background looks white and black. I loaded the image up in Lightroom, and used that assumption to white balance it. If you would like to try this out yourself, here’s how to do it. The black I used is in the lower left corner. We can all agree-that that’s supposed be black: correct? 🙂

With the white balance "fixed".
With the white balance “fixed”.

Is the image accurately toned?

Lightroom shows us that we might have blown out colors. How do we know that this is real clipping, instead of a false positive? The light has softened the edges of the dress so much that it looks foggy in there. So, yes, this a blown out image. If we were there, then we would have a well-exposed the image, but we weren’t, so we are going to adjust tone to even out the histogram.

With the tone "fixed".
With the tone “fixed”.

So what is our best guess for the color? Black and Blue

Each pixel may have a different color, but Photoshop’s color picker can do a 51 x 51 pixel average for us to get a more accurate estimate.

The lighter colored stripes have a lot of blue:

  • Red: 8
  • Green: 77
  • Blue: 206

In other words: blue.

The darker colored stripes RGB values are close to zero:

  • Red: 1
  • Green: 8
  • Blue: 49

In other words: black.

Conclusion

A skilled photographer would could set its white balance and its tone. Once we do that, it’s blue and black. Here’s the final word:

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One Finger Per Fret System & When You SHOULDN’T Use It

(Originally posted on Mar 11, 2016 as /archives/10854)

Scott Devine from Scott’s Bass Lessons created a video lesson about why you shouldn’t always use one finger per fret. He gives us some advice on when to use it, and alternatives, for when you shouldn’t.

Here’s the video:

Here are my thoughts:

For myself, on a short scale bass, one finger per fret is fine.

There is an optimal amount of tension that the strings should have. If the neck is too short, then they will flop around when the bass is tuned correctly. Even with that in mind, the 34″ scale neck is longer than it needs to be.

I suspect that Leo Fender measured the scale length of a standup bass, and that was that. (Standup bass necks, and bass guitar necks, are the same length. The standup bass neck only looks larger, because it’s bridge is in the center of the body, and a bass guitar’s bridge is at the end.)

I had a professor that insisted that I push with the ends of my finger bones, use one finger per fret, and not slide my hand at all. He believed that this would help me avoid tendonitis. He was incorrect. My hand’s bones aren’t even long enough to do that at full stretch. A full scale bass isn’t a plastic-stringed classical guitar, and different techniques are needed. Which are discussed in Scott’s video above, and other videos by Scott.

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DANGER _IS_ MY MIDDLE NAME

(Originally posted on 2009-07-20 as /archives/2464)

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I wanted to have the same last name as my spouse and daughter, I have been called Paul since 1985, and Kay insisted that I have a middle name, so I changed my name from “William Paul Caligiuri” to “Paul Danger Kile”. As a bonus I no longer have to spell my last name over-and-over again. “Danger” is my  legal middle name as-of 2007-02-02.

I am not the only one. “Brian Danger r.” (not his real family name) left the following quote on the last version of this website: “I just legally changed my middle name to danger and was googling around to see if I could find others like me. I’m glad I’m not the only one!”

Here are some “danger is my middle name”, and similar, quotes

Books and Magazines

These are the earliest “Danger is my middle name” book quotes that we could find.

1954

“The Cactus Wildcat, A One-act Rip-roaring Western Comedy for Children”, by James S. Wallerstein (published in 1954) says: “Danger is my middle name.” on page 22.

1970

The Trumpet of the Swan by E B White (published in 1970) says: “Danger is my middle name.” on page 227.

These are the earlies “…is my middle name” book-and-magazine quotes that we could find.

1897

Munsey’s magazine, Volume 18 (published in 1897) says “Deserving is my middle name” on page 64.

1909

The Submarine Boys’ Trial Trip: Making Good as Young Experts, by Victor G. Durham (published in 1909): says: “Porpoise is my middle name…” on page 172.

1925

Pearson’s Magazine, Volume 33 (published in 1925) says “Transportation is my middle name” on page 117, and “Wisdom Is Our Middle Name” on page 253.

Television and Movies

This is the earliest TV quote that I could find.

1968

The Monkees Monstrous Monkee Mash (1968)
Micky: [speaking with a masculine voice] Well, don’t worry, my middle name is ‘Danger’.
Micky: [the Wolfman lets out a growl from behind the door] Aaah! Of course, my last name is ‘Chicken’.

Renaissance Poetry

1500’s

The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, Book IV, published in the 1500’s says, “His name was Daunger dreaded ouer all”.

References

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