Monday, March 7, 2011

Fluctuation in Fluorescent Lighting

I'VE OFTEN HEARD that fluorescent lamps will quickly fluctuate in color as electric current flows through them. I decided to do a little experiment to see if this is true.  I took a number of photos of a compact fluorescent bulb in rapid succession. The exposure and white balance of the camera was fixed, and the shutter speed was 1/1250 second. Here are four of these photos:

Change of fluorescent bulb color with phase

I saturated the colors here to make them more evident, but they do noticeably fluctuate. If like me you often severely manipulate or saturate your images, you will increase the likeliness of seeing these color shifts. Long exposure times will average out these fluctuations.

The human eye is rather well adapted to changes in the color of lighting from yellow to blue, like we find outdoors on a sunny day or with incandescent lighting. However, fluorescent lamps will produce problematic and sickly-looking green and magenta color casts, especially if there is any natural or incandescent lighting in the scene. This effect is particularly noticeable by the camera. When I am confronted with fluorescent lighting, I will turn it off if possible before starting photography.

1 comment:

Ted Cossins said...

Brilliant! Very helpful for my own research into lighting for wristwatch macro shots.