Consider This: Colors are what we see, not what we should see

The image you see here is one of my favorite color images. I love the red interior of the vintage car. It’s an HRD image. I created it by combining six images (Canon 5D Mark II/15mm lens) using Photomaix, and then by applying Topaz Adjust. You’ll find information on HDR (and discounts) on the Plug-in Experience.

Speaking of that red in my photograph, would you call it: rose red, tomato red, bright red, faded red, vibrant red, deep red, red/orange, bold red, cranberry, apple red, or maybe something else?

My point: we all perceive color differently – and refer to colors by different names. We also see colors differently under different lighting conditions. Other factors that effect how we see color include: stress, being tired – and drinking coffee, Coke, beer and wine. Age, too, affects how we see color.

No surprise. After all, as Ralph Evans said, “Colors are what we see, not what we should see.” That is why calibrating your monitor and printer is of the utmost importance. I do it twice a month. I also calibrate my projector before I give a presentation – because the room light changes from location to location. My calibration device: the ColorMunkie.

One of my good friends, Dr. Richard Zakia, author of Perception and Imaging – Photography, A New Way of Seeing, is an expert on color (among many other aspects of photography). In his highly informative and delightfully entertaining book, Dr. Z offers in-depth insight into how and why we see and perceive colors. If you are a nut about color, I suggest you check out his book. Even if you are not a nut about color, I know you’ll learn a ton from his book.

For now, here are some quotes that accompany his chapter on color. Think about each quote. Its meaning will become clear.

“A color cannot exist without an environment.” Edward Land

“Combinations of colors judged offensive a few years ago are in style now.” Roger Remington

“Color, as the most relative meaning in art, has numerous faces and appearances.” Joseph Albers.

“Imagine a piano having 75,000 different sounds.” This is the situation of painters.” Salvador Dali

Dr. Z includes his own quotes:

“Color, like sound and taste, is purely a subjective experience.”

“Red colors tend to increase tension; white, blue and green tend to release tension.”

If color management is driving you nuts, keep this quote in mind: “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” – Monet.

See, you are not alone. Like all creative photographers/artists, color is important to you.