Demystifying the Jargon

What are all these terms that photographers and magazines editors talk about?  Shopping images, colour correction, white balance, black point, these are all terms we photographers understand well, hopefully.  To the everyday person, they may well be forgiven for thinking we have sniffed too many chemicals in one too many darkrooms. So what does all this mumbo jumbo we speak really mean?

Shopping images does not involve walking around shopping centres dressed in a trench coat and trying to sell photos to unsuspecting people.  Shopping images is a common term given to the process of adjusting the appearance of an image utilising the industry standard software, Adobe Photoshop.  By using a product of this type, we can overcome many situations a photographer would otherwise have little control over.

For example, take your average dull overcast type of day.  Many people think that the photos will look dull and lifeless, initially they do.  For a photographer, a dull day can be almost perfect for photography as the sun has just become a huge neutral light source rather than a harsh direct piece of light casting shadows here, there and everywhere.  The other benefit is the contrast of the colours provided on an overcast day is so much easier and nicer to work with when the photos are enhanced.

What happens to the photos taken on a dull day?  They are colour corrected to make them look as if they were taken on a nice sunny day, without the shadows.

Colour correction, what is that?  Colour correction is simply the task of balancing up the colours in the image to make them look as close to realistic as possible.

Why do we need to do that?  When a photo is taken with the digital camera an image is captured via a sensor with millions of pixels, usually referred to as mega (million) pixels.  Depending on what camera you use it may capture up to 16 million pixels or even more. These pixels appear as small, tiny dots, imagine fitting 10 million individual dots onto something the size of a matchbox!  To obtain a semi realistic interpretation of this captured information, the data is transferred from the sensor via a very small computer inside the camera and it is then written to a memory card (in most cases).   The processes carried out on the image after the photo is taken and before the image is saved to the memory card are generally where good quality cameras come to the fore.  The actual process they use to convert the information needs to have a ‘base’ setting often referred to as white balance.  We can see that if we look at a house the grass is generally green, the sky is sometimes blue, the window frames are white and so on. Well, we can see that, but how does the camera know? It looks for pixels that represent a certain detail and then based on that detail it knows what the colours are meant to be.  I won’t go into how exactly this happens as it varies between manufacturers, even between their cameras, but its quite complex and involves colour temperatures emitted from different sources and so on.

What is white balance?  Light has a certain temperature.  Different light sources will emit light at different colour temperatures. If you have ever used film, you may have noticed that many photos taken indoors have a yellow/orange or blue tinge to them.  If we used an orange filter on the lens of the camera, we could absorb the orange light to correct the colour, likewise a blue filter for removing the blue tinge.  This is great if you have room to carry a bag full of filters, time to get things setup properly and not miss ‘the photo’.

With digital photography, we can change the settings on the camera to do this white balancing for us. Effectively what happens is the camera ‘moves’ the base settings for the colour temperatures of the objects within the image thereby changing the resultant appearance.  Depending on the brand of camera, the Auto White Balance will probably work better than on some others.

What is black point?  The black point of a photo is quite important. It is the colour that produces a colour value of 0 % Red, 0 % Green and 0 % Blue, each component of the RGB colour scale.  This then provides a setting that is used to establish the maximum percentage of black ink for the printing process. The setting is made before an RGB image is converted to a print image.

I noticed that you offer an option for  dusk photo shoots, why do a photo shoot at dusk? A hint of a yellow or orange tinge to a photo can sometimes contribute to the mood of the photo, for example the warm orange glow of a candle, a nice warm open fire in a winter setting and so on.  Other reasons for dusk photography are numerous, some houses just don’t look as appealing in daylight whereas at night they can look amazing.  Many houses can be made to look far more romantic or enchanting with dusk photography.  It does not work for every house, some will gain no or little benefit from a dusk photo shoot. But when it does work, the results can be incredible.  If your aim is to sell your house, you need to make it as marketable as possible.  Explore every available option you can to make it look its best. They don’t sell cars in car yards without a bit of a polish, why not do the same for your house!