Choosing Compact Fluorescent Bulbs for your Workspace
Sunset at Rikk’s House
Consider my humble home. The above shot was taken in the failing light of the sun. You can see the shadow of the tree in my front yard as the nearly level beams of sunset shine the last light of day upon my front door. As the dusk deepens you begin to see the lights inside my abode glow against the impending darkness.
Interior lights begin to glow in the daylight-balanced scene
As the light fails outside, it becomes obvious that two different color masters are at work in my home. The three windows above are my living room which is lit with CFL bulbs off-the-shelf from your normal discount store. They are decidedly warm when compared with the lights in my office (the three windows at ground level). My office is lit with CFL bulbs which have been balanced to mimic daylight. The package advertises them at 5000° K.
I chose the modest additional expense of daylight-balanced CFL bulbs to ensure that I was keeping as color-matched an environment as possible. I want the light in my office at night to be a close to the ambient light of my office during the day. It makes the color matching for my client work so much easier. It also helps make my images more consistent as I edit, print and display my photographic work. No longer do view, in the clear light of morning, an image created when the darkness shrouded the earth, and wonder at the off-kilter color results.
White balanced for the lower window’s light
For fun, I decided to do a little after-the-fact white balancing using the WB Eyedropper in Adobe’s Lightroom software. I loaded the Canon 5D RAW files into Lightroom and set the WB to Daylight. I then made two additional virtual copies of the image and set the original aside. With the eye dropper I sampled the white wall in my office and applied the white balance, represented in the photo above. You can see the siding took on a pinkish tint but the wall came out nicely white. The tint is manageable and only a slight annoyance.
White balanced for the upper window’s light
The photo above is the second virtual copy white balance-sampled against the white wall in the living room upstairs. The wall is now white but the rest of the house turned horribly blue as the software compensated for the 2750° K temperature of the discount CFL bulbs. Both walls were painted the same color and we are essentially looking at the same image repeated and white balanced. What a difference a light bulb makes!
Now imaging you are working under these conditions and a bulb burns out in your workspace. Any old bulb off the shelf might drastically change the way your display’s broadcast colors appear. Even more drastic would be the apparent shift in colors on your photographic prints, design pieces or other color-matched collateral.
If you are going to bother with calibrating your monitor, profiling your camera and making test prints, pay a little attention to the color temperature of your room’s light bulbs. Spend a little extra to ensure that your room lighting is equivalent from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. And keep a spare matched bulb on hand, in case some well-meaning family member decides to change a burned out bulb for a bulb of a different color.
Rikk Flohr © 2009