General Question

lapilofu's avatar

Is there evidence to support the idea that it is "better" for or "interferes less" with a photo to display it on a gray background?

Asked by lapilofu (4325points) July 17th, 2008

Particularly on computer screens. And what does it even mean to interfere less with an image? Does that imply that the image has one true perception and anything but gray interferes with that perception? What makes that perception the true one? Please, be as elaborate as you feel—I’m really curious about this.

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11 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

Color is a perceptive process, influenced by many factors including but not limited to: ambient light, eye strain, your mental state, and the colors surrounding it. By keeping your desktop background and physical surroundings color-neutral, it aids in more accurate color perception.

Upward's avatar

I personally prefer black, but was always taught that gray is the perfect working background for color correcting images. Gray gives your eye a neutral pallet to perceive the colors by.

Skyrail's avatar

As Taco said it aids colour perception. If it was a white background the image would ‘seem’ darker, on a black background it would ‘seem’ brighter, I guess grey keeps it neutral.

bpeoples's avatar

The other bit to think about is the current “iphone 3G screens are yellow” thing—color temperature is compensated amazingly by our eyes, which you see super-quick when you see two screens with different color temperatures next to each other.

If you matte a photo on a black background, it tends to make the colors more saturated—compare these two photos:

There’s a pretty big color shift between the two, grey would give you (theoretically) no color shift, and I think pretty useful that way.

Seesul's avatar

The grey has to be as neutral a grey as possible. Grey can have other colors in it, such as blue or brown.

cooksalot's avatar

It’s called a neutral gray or 50% gray background. This is most beneficial when you are determining exposure, and aperture when developing or taking a photo. Such as having a subject hold a neutral gray card when you test the lighting so you can determine the proper speed for taking a picture. That will also help in the development of the photo, when you develop the photo you have a baseline for developing the rest of the roll. Really though display of a photo is probably best on true white or true black since there are different shades of even those.

Seesul's avatar

Thanks, I was fuzzy on the term, it has been quite a few years since I’ve been in a darkroom, etc. Thanks cooksalot. I have those cards somewhere.

steelmarket's avatar

lap, go with the gray background if you are editing photos or judging them head-to-head.

But, as a background for displaying an individual photo, such as a frame or matte, then you can go with whatever color best exhibits the image. Purist will say that every photo should be displayed on a neutral background, but other folks (even photographers) will argue that the color and size of the matte can be varied to compliment the image.

cooksalot's avatar

Not only that but weather or not you can get that photo to look like it belongs in it’s surroundings can also make a big difference in how appealing it is to others.

chaosrob's avatar

When you’re doing commercial color correction, everything that isn’t what you’re working on is an industry standard neutral grey. This helps eliminate variations from shop to shop, and contributes to a common perception of a color value, regardless of where you’re viewing it. “Perfect” color consistency is something of a Platonic ideal, though. There’s always some variation and always complicating factors in color perception. Having neutral backgrounds and frames is just a way to help eliminate some of that. Color shops also use standardized lighting, color viewing booths with standardized reflectivity on the walls, etc.

kruger_d's avatar

I think what your looking for here is the idea of simultaneous contrast—the fact the when two colors are placed together, they each affect the way the other is percieved. Whites appear brighter against a dark background. Colors are pushed toward the compliment of the color that surrounds them. (A pink surrounded by blue will take on a coral tinge because orange is the compliment or opposite of blue.) A 50% neutral grey will diminish any color shift and will, in theory, affect dark and light areas equally, assumming that they average at 50% grey, which is a big assumtion. Most cameras auto-exposure aiming for 18%. A grey that matches the average value of your photo is ideal for color and contrast correction, but may not be the best answer for display. Because it is neither warm nor cool it has a tendency to look a little dead.

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