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postheadericon Fluorescent Light Shots

One of the most common types of indoor lighting, fluorescent lamps look white but photographed green, and call for white balance correction. Fluorescent lamps have a discontinuous spectrum and produce, usually, a greenish color cast. They work by means of an electric discharge passed through vapor sealed in a glass tube, with a fluorescent coating on the inside of the glass. Theses fluorescers glow at different wavelengths, and have the effect of spreading the spectrum of the lamp’s light. Visually this works very well and the eye registers the light as white, if a little cold. However, in photography, this colors the scene unattractively.

If these deficiencies were consistent, it would be a simple matter of using one standard white balance correction. However,fluorescent lamps vary in the visual effect that the manufacturer tries to produce. Some are only slightly green when photographed; others are very green. All digital cameras have at least one white balance correction setting, but some feature a choice, with, for instance, separate settings for “Daylight”, “Warm White,” and “Cool White” lamps. It is difficult to tell just by looking now how much of a green cast will appear. It is usually best to test it by shooting with the basic white balance setting and then adjusting from there.

A large part of the problem, aesthetically, is that an overall bias towards green is considered unattractive by most people, except in special and occasional circumstances. A shift to orange is generally tolerated but the same is not true of green. Whereas orange is a color of illumination that is within our visual experience (e.g. firelight, rich sunsets) and has, on the whole, pleasant associations of warmth, green is not a natural color of light. Although this is a fairly good reason for wanting to make corrections, you should, as a first step, think about whether you can make some use of the green cast, or indeed whether the color will make any important detrimental difference to the image.

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