What Is 'Color Science' and Should It Actually Matter to Photographers?

"Color science" is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit as a catch-all for some things that are actually under the umbrella of science and many that aren't at all. This excellent video unpacks all the baggage that comes along with the term "color science."

Coming to you from Gerard Undone, this awesome video talks about "color science," what it truly is, and what it means (and should mean) to photographers. A lot of photographers will eyeball photographs taken by different cameras from various brands and declare the colors from one to be more "accurate" or "better" than the other, when what they really mean is "I have a subjective preference for the colors from this camera." While there's nothing wrong with having subjective preferences (photography is an art, after all), it does annoy me when people pan a brand's color science as "bad" or "inaccurate" when they've not actually tested the accuracy and are turning their opinions into declarative sentences feigning objectivity. Whether you're just starting out or looking to buy a new camera, it's important to understand this distinction along with the fact that you have quite a bit of control in post over the colors. Check out the video above for more.

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19 Comments

Kenneth O. Soto's picture

Hopefully this should help decrease the amount of times "color science" is used to argue about how certain brands have "accurate colors", or maybe not...

Kirk Darling's picture

This stuff mattered more when we were shooting film transparencies. The Leitz lens line and the Zeiss lens line each had an internally consistent color tone it imparted to the images (Leitz was distinctly cooler than Zeiss).

Nikon and Canon emulated the Leitz and Zeiss color tones, respectively. Comparing Kodachrome transparencies of the same subjects shot with the two lens lines, you could easily see the difference.

And if you sprinkled in some 3rd party lenses, you could see that, too.

But as the video explained...that's all moot today.

Elan Govan's picture

Entertaining take on the subject.

Pawel Paoro Witkowski's picture

This is pretty condensed, well recorded video with no crap-talking. I would definitely recommend it anyone trying to chase the perfect colour :)

Laz Toth's picture

I stopped when he said that he was going to investigate whether color science really matters. If you're interested in true color science, not this vlog crap, go here:

https://www.rit.edu/cos/colorscience/

Don't get your info second hand from those who don't know what they're talking about. Go straight to the source.

Color Thief's picture

Completely agree…there was very little color science in this video. It was just someone talking very fast and very generally about a bunch of quasi-scientific things. The RIT link is a much better place to learn about real color science.

Kirk Darling's picture

His point is that the current common babble about "camera color science" IS "a bunch of quasi-scientific things." That's exactly what he's saying.

Color bias is more like it 😂

Mr Hogwallop's picture

All colors matter.

Resisting the urge to make a comment about what you do to increase contrast in a photo.

Color Thief's picture

Not exactly Wyszecki & Stiles here.

Bobby Wood's picture

I love this article, you know not all people see the same colors......just something to think about!

Kirk Darling's picture

I have thought about it and realized that it doesn't matter any more than "camera color science" matters.

If I see a color and call it "X" and someone else sees the same color and agrees to call it "X" as well, it doesn't matter if we're actually perceiving different colors in our brains.

Colin Robertson's picture

I've been getting a lot out of Gerald's video's lately, especially this one and the autofocus one. Good info, refreshingly lacking in camera manufacturer wars clickbait... you know what I mean.

Kirk Darling's picture

Pretty good. Lots of words, none superfluous.

Spy Black's picture

He certainly nailed the "Canon Color Science" thing. Those cameras are absolute nightmares when trying to match product color. Pretty much anything but Canon if you're shooting for matching product color within the two main mediums, web and press.

I don't agree that Adobe knows how to match camera color. Not bad attempts, but no cigar. Adobe is a "standard" only by nature of having a monopoly on the professional industry.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

when people are talking about „color science „ on yt they are always talking about adobe raw and canon. acr and canon is a amazing combo for skin and skys, but awful with nearly every other camera - but this is just a adobe problem. using a proper raw converter for sony/nikon/fuji/... and they will have the same or better „ color science“

but we live in the time of trump and a bunch of other idiots ruling countries, I expect nothing

Carl Crumley's picture

I'm glad YouTube has a 0.75X playback speed option. He sounds normal at that speed!

Don Carli's picture

If you want to see new standards-based solutions for managing expanded gamut color and the appearance of print embellishment effects, PLEASE take and/or pass along this survey:

http://bit.ly/APTech_PRIMIR_Color_Survey

…it's being conducted for @APT_tech - and they want to know what you need!!