When “color temperature” fails us.

When “color temperature” fails us.

A previous article talked a little about the confusion between color temperature and color “temperatures”  where cool temperatures are ‘warm colours’ and ‘cool colurs’ are warm.   Colour temperature is very useful to define the apparent colours of light.  Light colour can be accurately reproduced throughout the universe if its colour temperature is stated.

This is why your camera allows you to set your white balance by entering the colour temperature of your light source.  Your strobe manufacture probably states the colour temperature in °K right on the box, and incandescant lamps can be purchased by °K they will emit when operated at the correct voltage.

Before digital cameras, a photographer, knowing the colour temperature of the light source(s), could peruse the Kodak filter specification book and choose filters to alter the colours reaching the film to achieve his desired effect.

Color temperature is very useful when describing the colour qualities of the light emitted by something because it is heated to the point of emitting light.   However, it is completely unsatisfactory for describing light from Light Emitting Diodes (LED).  In my opinion, its use should cease immediately.

The problem is that ‘white’ LEDs are not white.  They do not contain ‘all colours in equal amounts.  Though they appear white to most people they are definitely not.  Rather than get into a lot of scientific explanations, it is very easy to prove this to your self.

Get a magnifying glass and look at your colour TV, colour computer monitor, etc.  Look closely and you will see there is no brown, magenta, pink, etc.  There is only red, green, and blue!  (OK, there is that one exception that we saw advertised on tv that actually added yellow emitters in addition to R, G, B.)

Now imagine that you used a selection of red lights and green lights to illuminate your photographic subject.  How do you think a blue dress would appear to the camera?  It would appear black.  A blue dress in sunlight appears blue because it reflects more blue light than other colours;  without blue light from your ‘flashlight’ there would be ‘no’ light to reflect, thus it would appear black.

Now, when we learn that ‘white’ LEDs actually work, we learn the problem.  “White” LEDs appear white-enough for most purposes because they use ultra-violet light to stimulate phosphor to glow.  This prinicipal, and the correct mixture of phosphorous compounds will generate light that looks ‘white’ to our eyes.  However, the light is missing quite a bit of red.

Simple spectroscope

Simple Spectroscope (Image used under creative commons license.)

We also suffer from this same problem with the ‘new’, ‘efficient’, compact fluorescent lamps.
The top image shows the apparatus for this ‘home made’ spectrum scope.  The middle image shows an incandescant lamp on the left, and on the right shows a ‘rainbow’ of light which smoothly emits every visible colour in equal amounts.  The bottom image shows a “efficient” ‘compact fluorescent lamp’ on the left, and on the right, we can see that there is no orange, no yellow, no violet, no indigo, being emitted from this lamp.

The answer is called Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

This Wikipedia article explains CRI. and we will discuss it further in a future article.

Warmer / cooler images, color temperature and confusion!

Warmer, Colder, Kelvin, and Color Temperature

Please stop confusing me!

We all know the phrases “white hot”, “red hot”, “blue lips”, but these colors mean different things to different people.  That’s ok until we try to talk to each other.

What is “color temperature” ?

If you have experienced “bone chilling cold” you were certainly pleased when you could get inside in front of a fire or a ‘heat lamp.’   You felt more ‘warming’ than just getting inside the house with warm air.  Why?  Because the fire, or the old electric heater, is radiating vast quantities of infra-red light which penetrates through your skin and deeper into your muscles or joints.

If you have ever watched a man heat treat metal, you know the color of the hot metal is very important to them.  The color indicates the temperature.  The color you see being radiated is a function of the temperature.  The first colour you see is red; heat it more, and it will start glowing orange.  Keep heating it and if it does not melt, it will eventually get white hot.  This is exactly what colour temperature means.

Stating the colour temperature in degrees Kelvin means that your light source color is identical to something ‘perfectly black’ heated to that temperature.  Read much more about color temperature on Wikipedia.

Interior designers and photographers say they want ‘warm colours’ or ‘cool colours’ and what they mean is exactly the opposite of physics.  They want reds and oranges, “forgetting”, well, ignoring, that blue is hot, red is cold.  To me, the ‘coldest’ colour is white; the color of snow.

Will the Kelvin colour temperature actually tell us the colour?  I found a blog by Steve Jenkins  “Choosing the Right LED Bulbs” that may interest you.  (They are not BULBs even though thats what people are calling them.)  He has a chart that tells us the 2,000° K is ‘warm’ and 6,000° K is cool.

So please remember that if you are not educated in science that when you talk to someone who is, one of you is going to be quite confused.

Our next article will explain “When Color Temperature Fails Us”

What the Nikon D7500 is Missing

I recently tried using a Nikon D7500 and discoverd a couple of missing features.  They are not missing in the sense that they were supposed to be there.  They are missing in the sense that you would expect that the D7500 would be a ‘better’ camera than the D7000, D7100, etc that came before it.

  • The D7100 has a programmable interval timer, the D7500 does not.  This feature allows you to set the camera to take a specified number of images with a specified amount of time between the shots.  (For stop-motion video, event documentation, etc.)
  • The D7100 has two SD memory card slots, the D7500 only has one.  For casual users, this may not be a problem; but if you are serious, or professional, it is essential to have that second memory card slot to use as a backup.  Only once have I had a memory card fail me after a photo-session.  I sent the lifetime-guaranteed SD card to Delkin and they happily replaced it.  They asked me if I would like them to try to recover my images from the card (a Delkin service) and it felt so good to be able to say “no need for that, but thank you.  I have a backup card with all the images.”
  • The D7100 has the “Flash Commander” function, the D7500 does not.  This is Nikon’s method of using the camera’s built-in pop-up flash to control remote Nikon speedlights.  Whether in your home studio, or on location, the ability to adjust the output from your fill lights saves a lot of time and a lot of walking.  Perhaps they are trying to get us to buy the $599.95 SB-5000 flash?

The D7500 does have a tilting display.  For me that is a big “so what?” feature.

The D7500 does have some of those features that let it do things with your “phone”.  Another “so what?” feature that to use, you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a ‘phone’ to use.

If I were to use the D7500, I might have some positive things to say about it.  But due to these missing features, I don’t think I will ever pick one up again.

On a slightly related note;  I do experience excessive drooling when I think about the Nikon D850.

Best Batteries for Off Camera Flash (Speedlights)

If you are more than a ‘guy with camera’ you know how important off-camera flash is; especially on sunny, cloudless, days.  This article deals with battery performance for external camera flash units (‘speedlights’).

As an electronic engineer I have known for decades which type of battery to use in high-current devices.   This video by Maha Energy includes a 2 minute video which shows  you the difference.

I would like to point you to this 2 minute video on the Maha Energy website that shows you the astonishing performance benefit of NiMH battery over alkaline.  Not only do NiMH cells out perform alkaline type, they will pay for themselves and a good charger very quickly.

It is extremely important that you use a good charger with your rechargeable batteries.  If you have been experiencing crappy battery performance or battery life, it is probably the fault of your charger.  Most drugstore / fleamarket battery chargers charge for 14 hours whether the cell needs it or not.  A proper smart charger is the best thing for your rechargeable cells.

I am extremely satisfied with the Maha 8 cell charger and the 4 cell charger / analyzer.

What about lithium-ion battery technology?

Li-ion batteries are the choice for laptop computers and electric cars because they can pack so much energy into such a small space.   And that is exactly why they are dangerous… because they pack so much energy into such a small space and once they catch on fire, there is no way to extinguish the fire.   This is why it is getting more difficult every year to fly with devices which contain li-ion batteries.  It is already very difficult to ship them by “next day air” shipping services.

I expect someday soon we will see speedlight manufacturers jump on to the li-ion fad.  Be assured, I will not be buying one of them, it just will not be worth the expense and difficulty.

Make Your Images “Come Alive”: Show Motion

If the photograph you are about to make is of a subject in motion, you need to show motion.

Show motion in an image about a motion.

An image about a motion would include any type of photograph in which something is in motion; this could be a child on a swing, swinging a tennis racket, or a boxer’s face when hit by his opponent.  And of course, 2 wheel activities!

Let’s compare these two photographs.


I assure you that the motorcycle was moving faster than the bicycle.  Can’t believe your eyes?  No, you Read More