Behind the Scenes

Blue and Black vs White and Gold Dress – A Photographers Take

Blue and Black vs White and Gold Dress – A Photographers Take

Yesterday, the images below surfaced and a buzz went around the internet determining whether the below dress was blue/black or white/gold. Well, here are my 2 cents. As a photographer, the dress below is actually leaning towards blue/black. Why… you may ask? Well, I actually see this situation occur more times than not.

While many are analyzing the image in photoshop which is fine but this will only tell you the actual color that is currently displayed. The actual image color is based on the temperature.

In the original image, there are two color temperatures competing.  When I take a photo, images should always be white balanced correctly so when I tried to white balance the bluish tint, I get the final results below.  The white balancing actually changes the darker area to a color you can determine if it’s black or gold for yourself but the white should always be balanced for white.

How do we white balance? To white balance, we have to use an obvious white source. The obvious white source is not in the dress itself but in the clothing directly behind the dress in the lower left portion of the image. But when there are competing color temperatures the result vary. As you will see in the last image.


Correctly color balanced using obvious white source.


Color corrected and white balanced on the dress itself to try to remove the blue.
Original from internet leaning towards the White/Gold
Original from internet with blue/black
Original from internet


When does competing color temperatures occur when white can appear as blue?

This situation occurs primarily when the subject is in an shaded area ( 5200 Kelvin with possible Florescent lighting in the distance) and outdoor natural light (4800 Kelvin) in the distance/background.  The camera’s auto White Balancing feature is trying to determine the true colors so it balances everything to be somewhere in the middle. Hence the optical illusion.

Another situation that this occurs in is in the below image: If you look at the tablet, the whites areas appear bluish. Analyzing the white area in photoshop will give you a bluish tint value, but we obviously know where the white areas are in the tablet. We also know the rice in the sushi is white. The camera is fooled due to the different color temperatures.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 6.01.30 AM

You may also like...

1 Comment

  1. Jon Keckonen says:

    Today’s WSJ had an article trying to explain the white/gold, blue/black question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *