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Photography Question 
Bonnie Schwartz

Exposure/color question

I've been taking pictures of my dog on a green (sort of olive green) futon. There is a ceiling fan with lights about 1 1/2 feet to the left of the futon (and about 5 feet above it)

In all pictures taken in either manual, shutter or aperture priority, the futon looks almost like a rust/coral color. When I take the same shot in auto mode, it does look green, but very light (maybe because in auto, my flash goes off. I've trid changing my white balance to incadescent, but it doesn't help.

Any idea why I am getting a color that isn't anywhere close to the futon color - and how can I get the correct color?
I'm using a Nikon D50

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12/15/2007 6:40:27 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Compeeting light sources in a setting will cause color shifting especially if one is brighter or stronger than another. It could be flourescent mixed with incandescent or even halogen. It seems while your flash improves the outcome, it's still not quite enough to overpower or cool the color temp of your incandescent sources.

I think the fix for this is that you need to adjust the white balance in your D-50 to suit the scene more than just for incandescent, if that's possible, or turn off any additional light sources other than one or two desk / table lamps and see what happens. Since I shoot strictly film, I can't help you with adjusting your white balance but I'll lay odds one of our resident digital gurus will be along shortly to explain how to zero it in more accurately to improve your results.
Take it light ;>)

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12/15/2007 6:52:20 PM

anonymous A.    From you description, there is no colour caste on the rest of the photo, it's just that the green looks the wrong shade.
This is probably not a white balance problem as such: different sensors, like different films, respond to specific colours in surprising ways. The reflective properties of the material may also be a factor, too.
Adjusting the camera's white balance might help, but you may get better results correcting the colour in your software afterwards; that way you can adjust just the green. Shooting RAW might also give you a bit mor control.

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12/15/2007 7:01:49 PM

Bonnie Schwartz   It's more than the green being the wrong shade (except in auto exposure mode) It is actually coming out as more of an rust/orange shade! I can try shooting in raw- it's just weird. I have another futon that is actually the rust/orange shade- and when I shoot something that is sitting on that futon- that comes out fine!! Weird

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12/15/2007 7:16:20 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Bonnie,
You may want to download this publication from Kodak: The publication addresses problems in color reproduction, and mentions specifically Green fabrics. I have had several problems with the green fabric and film over the years. I have not yet had a problem with digital capture and green fabric, but I don’t know of a reason that it wouldn’t happen. So the problem may be that it is not easy to photograph green.
Thanks, John Siskin

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12/15/2007 7:33:33 PM

Bonnie Schwartz   Thanks, I'll check it out

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12/15/2007 7:51:03 PM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Bonnie,

Your question deals with a phenomenon known as "approximate color constancy". This is a most important aspect of the human eye/brain and how we adapt to ambient light. The authority remains Dr. Ralph M. Evans of the Kodak Research Lab. Oh, how I miss his lectures! His publication ”Color as Seen and Photographed”, remains the supreme authority. He is gone but not forgotten.

He would have told you if you stopped him in hallway….
Ordinarily we are not aware that there is much difference in the appearance of an object under different lighting situations. We are accustomed to think that colors do not change. This is because we tend to remember colors rather than go back and look at them closely.

When doing flash photography indoors, we are composing a scene likely illuminated by tungsten or perhaps a mix of different ambient lights. The camera on the other hand will see this scene illumined mainly by the light of the flash. Now the flash simulates daylight with its higher blue content. Likely you have never seen this scene so illuminated. Further, given the short duration of the flash, your eyes will never witness the room illumined by flash.

When we think about the room, and view a photograph, we want to see colors formed by our mental impression. Our tendency is to think we know what is real and we are disappointed when our expatiations are not realized.

Also, color film and digital chips and display screens and prints and the like, do not reproduce with high fidelity. On this score photography has much ground to cover. Today emphasis is on skin tones and memory colors. As photography matures, we will achieve better and better reproduction capability.

Alan Marcus (technical gobbledygook -- burn before reading)

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12/16/2007 8:58:37 AM

Bonnie Schwartz   Thanks Alan- but except for when I tried it in auto exposure, the flash did not fire.

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12/16/2007 10:03:46 AM

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