New York Magazine posted two images of Obama from Getty; the one on the left is from July 27th, and the one on the right is from yesterday.
“Barack Obama has begun talking about how he’s ‘going gray’ lately, and
it’s true — the man’s hair is going silver faster than you can say ‘Anderson Cooper with a tan.’ So fast, in fact, that we have to wonder
at the legitimacy of it. Just last month, Obama’s longtime barber said he’d never dyed Obama’s hair
darker — implying that the candidate’s youthful color is
But within the last week, the candidate has
mysteriously gone nearly fully gray. Look at the above pictures.
We hate to call the effects of age into question, but doesn’t it look like he’s dying his hair to look more distinguished?”
Ok, we love you New York Magazine, but we have to say, we find your photography analysis rather layman. Let’s check in with an expert– say…. PhotoShelter’s Photo Editor, Amber Sexton. Amber looks at like, 5,000 news images a day. She knows what’s what.
(amber also knows from hair color)
“Looking at these two images, I think people are just making the mistake
of treating photographic representations as reality. It’s
understandable really, we all are in the business of making people feel
that photos are real. But photographers take pictures at different
exposures, situations have different color balance, and contrast, and
pictures can have varying levels of saturation.
On the left we have a photo that was processed or captured at a darker
exposure, and higher level of color saturation. Therefore his hair
looks quite black, but his skin tone is richer and deeper also. His
hair is also dark because he doesn’t really have a hair light, he’s lit
from the front. Gray hair is still clearly visible though. It seems
like a slightly warmer color temperature setting was used (maybe 5200k
On the right it’s a lighter exposure, the color balance is a hair
cooler, so both his skin and hair are lighter. The contrast is similar,
which is what fools your eye into thinking that the images are
comparable lighting situations– but they really aren’t. He’s lit more
from the top, and further, he’s tilting his head so the side of his head
where you see a lot of hair is now better lit. All the color that your
eye processes as gray hair is mostly not gray hair, but highlights from
the lighting on his hair.
Does he dye his hair? I don’t know, but I certainly don’t think he’s
dying it gray. That would actually be difficult to do starting from black
(as a person who has double process hair myself I know from whence I
speak). At any rate I don’t think a comparison of these images reveals
that he’s dying it gray.”
Thanks for the expertise, Amber. This hair-color conundrum is an age-old question:
What do you think, fair-haired reader?
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