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Photography and Color Correction with Négrel Antiques

The importance of accurate color:

How many of you have ordered a red shirt from a catalog or online only to have it arrive pink? Or thought that a stylish taupe sofa looked great in the showroom, but looks like a bland grey once it's delivered to your home? The importance of accurate color cannot be overstated. If you have any formal training in color theory, you may have the words for it. But even those who haven't actively studied color can often tell when something is off, even if they cannot necessarily explain it. Color can change everything!

Light temperature:

Without light, we would not see any color at all. When light of differing wavelengths come into contact with an object, that object absorbs some and reflects some. The light that is reflected is what gives an object the color that we see. So a red shirt reflects red and absorbs the other colors. And additionally, different light sources have a different temperature. This is often a difficult concept for most people to grasp, but if you've ever seen "Soft White" and "Cool White" light bulbs for sale at the hardware store, you know that there are different temperatures that are measured in degrees Kelvin. Most incandescent bulbs fall somewhere between 2700 degrees and 4000 degrees Kelvin. Daylight is often around 5000 degrees Kelvin, but can fluctuate dramatically based on cloud cover. So that same red shirt can appear different colors in different temperature lighting! One of the goals of a professional product photographer is to ensure that the color of their subject is as accurate as possible.

When we are shooting in the studio, our lights are set to 5000 degrees Kelvin, which emulates natural daylight without any cloud cover or inclimate weather. So our studio photographs mimic what you would see in natural light.

Can you see the difference in these three images? All are identical, except for color temperature.

Use a color checker:

One of the standard tools of the trade when working in product photography is called a color checker card. This handy device is used to set a reference color for use in postproduction later. The photographer will place the color checker card in the scene with the subject of the shoot and capture a photo of it under the lighting conditions that their subject will also be under. Then, during postproduction, they can match the color of the rest of the scene to their reference. It's like using a ruler to measure the size of an object; take something we all agree on and use that to determine something else!

Calibrate your monitor:

An incredibly important point to make is that professional photographers, videographers, and graphic designers everywhere regularly "calibrate" their computer monitors to ensure accurate color. And, generally speaking, the rest of the public does not. If you've ever accidentally adjusted the gamma on your computer screen, or gotten lost in the various picture settings on your TV, you know that the color produced by a screen can be adjusted. And so, always bear in mind that every screen on the planet can and will display colors differently! This can make an enormous difference if you're purchasing something online and cannot be 100% sure that the retailer has taken the necessary steps to replicate accurate color for you. And, even if they have, there's always a chance that your own screen may not display the color accurately or even in the same way.

Négrel Antiques’ approach to color:

Having celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2019, Négrel Antiques has been in business since before the entire world was on the internet and originally relied on foot traffic at their brick-and-mortar showroom in Austin, Texas. When they first began listing their antique and vintage pieces online, they hired a photography consultant to explain how they could best approach their newfound need to photograph every piece in the collection. The industry standards and best practices were explained and they came up with a strategy to consistently represent their fine furniture and decorative pieces as accurately as possible to the public, so that they would not have to guess. Négrel Antiques uses an industry-standard color checker card, professional-grade cameras, lenses, and color-balanced lighting equipment, and a calibrated computer monitor and professional photo editing software to produce all of their photography in-house. They take their photography duties very seriously so that our customers can shop with them confidently!


Photography is a very unique profession, and a specialization that demands a tremendous amount of training, knowledge, as well as specialized equipment. With our highly capable smartphones, sometimes it's hard to remember that. While you're shopping with Négrel Antiques, we hope you will feel confident that their photography has been produced to the utmost standards. Also be mindful that it is impossible for them to guarantee something like color accuracy, because of the variable nature of digital color standards. If at any point you are curious about the true color of a piece, please reach out to Négrel Antiques by email at cathy@negrelantiques.com or phone 512-477-1616 and ask them!

posted on 2/12/2020