All About Reference Images

Table of Contents

The Basics

Reference images are 2-5 frames that exemplify your style in terms of:

  • Skin tones
  • Contrast
  • Density (e.g. brightness)
  • Saturation

Our color technicians reference your reference images as they scan and color-check your film, so that each frame is individually matched to your aesthetic.

Erich McVey / Fuji 400H / Contax645

How to Choose Reference Images

When choosing your reference images, pick images where your subject fills the majority of the frame. Skin tones are always scanned as priority (unless otherwise requested) so skin tones should be front and center.

Next, think of images that exemplify different shooting environments—direct sun, open shade, overcast, sunset. What are your most common shooting environments? Do you shoot in lots of greenery? Indoors? The beach? Be sure to pick images that showcase your shooting environments.

Erich McVey / Fuji 400H / Contax645

Order-Specific References

The difference between standard reference images and order-specific references is this:

Standard Reference Images

Standard references are kept on file and used for every order you send in, unless otherwise specified.

Order-Specific Reference Images

Order Specifics are used for one order only. They are designed to be used when an order needs highly specific attention. That could be an aesthetic change from your “normal.” Or it could be when a key element in the shoot has a specific color or brightness that needs to be matched.

When you upload your order-specific reference online at the time of ordering, be sure to indicate if it’s an exact color match for us to follow or if it’s just to give us a general sense of the environment.

Skin tones

The shot above by Perry Vaile is a great example of an order-specific reference image. It shows the scenery and weather of the day while also illustrating the skin tones, density and contrast we should be aiming for while scanning. (And it lets us know the groom’s suit is blue.)


As another example, if you are shooting flatlays with invitation suites and florals or the bridesmaids’ dresses are a very particular tone, please send in a few example images that show these colors so we can match it best. For these types of references, an image taken with your phone will work, as long as it accurately captures the color you’d like us to produce. Please indicate if you want an exact color match, or if it’s just to give us a general sense of the scene.

The (above) flatlay by Lauren Fair clearly shows the color of the invitation suites, the florals and the background as well as the density and contrast the photographer is after. This will help our color technician be more accurate.


Finally, if your order includes landscape shots, please provide examples that illustrate the density you are after. Let us know where you want the detail in your image—the amount of contrast you are after, along with overall tones of your environment.

This landscape photo by Corey Wolfenbarger beautifully illustrates the coloring and density of the scene, showing our color technicians where he wants the most detail within his image.

Staying Current

Your reference images should change as your style changes. As a photographer, your vision shifts over time. Communicate with us and update your reference images as your aesthetic shifts, so your scans can adapt along with you.