BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 

Shooting Indoors - Fluorescent Lighting

  Sample of yellowish hue photo
Sample of yellowish hue photo
f4, focal 60mm, indoors, fluorescent lighting
© Baloi
Olympus Camedia C-...
I have a Nikon D70 and am often asked to take pictures for our congregation. The room we are renting has fluorescent lighting. I will set to the widest aperture I can get (about f4) on aperture-priority, focal length will of 60mm, and everything else is on auto including white balance. My photos always turn out with a yellowish hue to it, and it looks so ugly, like my subjects have a liver disease or something. What can I do to fix this problem?

To love this question, log in above
11/22/2004 12:51:01 PM

George F. Howard
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/6/2004
  Set your white balance to fluorescent, before you take the photos (or use the RAW format, if that is available). For photos already taken, use a photo editing program to adjust the hue.

To love this comment, log in above
11/22/2004 5:23:25 PM

David King   George is right, a good starting point is to set your white balance to "fluorescent." For the more common bulbs, that works quite well and will get you a lot closer than auto. You can also use the preset mode and do a manual white balance which is good if there is any mixed lighting in the scene.

He is also correct about shooting RAW. The bit depth is much greater and allows for better color capture in those odd-light shots. The best solution is in the capture end of things. Fluorescents have a VERY narrow spectrum of light and consequently are not so easily corrected by global corrections that are really designed for correcting wide-spectrum light or color cast problems.

However, if you must do the corrections after the fact, on the first frame include a grey card prominently in the shot. Once in the editing program such as Photoshop, you can use that neutral patch to let levels or curves adjust the color balance. Note the corrections it did to the color channels and then apply that to the other frames.


To love this comment, log in above
11/23/2004 6:41:40 AM

Baloi    Thank you so much for all your answers. I will try it out.

To love this comment, log in above
11/23/2004 9:36:06 AM

Tom Theodore   I agree with both the above answers. You can also purchase an FD filter which will also combat the effects of the lighting. I would try and do some preshooting of the area if you can with the different settings on your camera.

To love this comment, log in above
11/23/2004 9:43:01 AM

Larry    Am I missing something here, or wouldn't a dedicated flash attachment with a diffuser be better?

To love this comment, log in above
11/23/2004 4:01:34 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003
Auto white balance settings tend to have difficulty with fluorescent lighting color. I would recommend doing a custom white balance setting using either a neutral white or gray card prior to shooting. Another very good alternative (although a little pricey) is to purchase an item called "ExpoDisc" that fits over the end of your lens to do a custom white balance setting. All reviews I have seen of this product indicate that it is very accurate and easy to use, regardless of the type or mix of lighting.
God Bless,

To love this comment, log in above
11/23/2004 4:11:56 PM

Ken Henry   Just as Greg says Custom White Balance works perfect in any kind of lighting.
Flourescent tubes have changed today, from tungsten yellow 3000 kelvin to super bright white 6500k(a little bluish cast).

Question: As you look at your monitor before you take the picture, do you see clear colors without any yellow or green cast?
If you are having a lab print your photos then they need to add one magenta and minus two yellows.
And if you are printing them out......


To love this comment, log in above
11/26/2004 4:58:02 PM

David King   Larry, you asked about uising a dedicated flash unit w/ diffuser. if the flash was the primary source of light or the only source of light on the subjects then it would certainly solve the white balance issue. But if the need was to use the flash to fill rather than overpower ambient light then the white balance problem continues. The advantage to a dedicated unit is the ability to use the TTL metering to set the flash to provide just the amount of fill desired.

The downside is that flash-on-camera, even with a diffuser, tends to be mediocre lighting stylistically. If Baloi was to use a portable flash unit, it would be better to mount it on a stand at the proper angle or, at least, use a handle or bracket mount that put it in a more flattering position than on the camera body close to the lens. Plus things look really wierd when the people are perfectly color balanced and the background is some bizarre off-shade of greenish yellow.


To love this comment, log in above
11/26/2004 9:03:01 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  top to a pringles can is said to work like that so called pricey expo disc.

To love this comment, log in above
11/27/2004 12:24:46 AM

Baloi    George, Tom, Larry, Greg, Ken and David
Thanks for all your input guys. The adjusting to fluorescent WB seem to have worked but when I use it in combination with using the built-in flash in the camera, the picture now is a little bluish. Without a flash, it's more natural. In doing the custom white balance using a gray card, I need to take a reading off the gray card in the room, right? I need to have the same quality of light on the card? I don't have a card yet but I will buy one.

To love this comment, log in above
11/27/2004 2:30:23 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  use something white to set white balance with the same kind of light.

To love this comment, log in above
11/27/2004 5:41:33 PM

Victor J.    Baloi, I would add to what George and David have said which is excellent; READ YOUR MANUAL. Your D70 is an excellent DSLR that should be able to adjust for your problem, Of course you can always correct after the fact as well as has been stated. Vic

To love this comment, log in above
11/28/2004 10:18:28 AM

Ken Henry   Using Flash and white balance at the same time?

What David says is very correct.

Your flash appears to be fill-in verses primary light source.

Here is how I power-up my digital or film in-camera flash for primary light source. I use exposure priority and set to highest sinc speed about 1/125. Then I set flash compensation to +1 or +2. The background virtually goes black.

The following I use for fill flash;

You need to correct the flash color to simulate lighting color in the room when you use white balance or corrective filters over the lenses. This eliminates wasted time on the computer.

Example: For evening tungsten lighting I use a 1/2 C.T. Orange Gel over my flash. This corrects flash from 5500K daylight to 2800K tungsten. This pretty well matches household tungsten lighting.

Flourescent lighting I would use "plus green" filters over my flash. 1/2 or 3/4 green.

I don't like the "white balance look" so I use a 80C blue filter for tungsten and a FL-D flourescent filter over my lenses.

To love this comment, log in above
11/28/2004 10:18:36 PM

Baloi    Vic, thanks for writing. I love my D70, it allowed me to greatly improve, I used to just take snapshots, but now I can say I can create pictures. Still not that great, getting there though. I do read my manual.

Ken, I don't understand what you mean by the "white balance" look, but I will try your techniques.

Thank you all.

To love this comment, log in above
11/29/2004 4:48:00 PM

Victor J.    Baloi: White Balancing:Adjusting the camera to compensate for the type of light hitting the subject. Eliminates unwanted color casts produced by some light sources, such as flouoreseat office lighting.Different light sources have varying color temperature, which is a fancy way of saying that they contain different amounts of red, green,and blue light. You can set your camera to that specific light or your camera can do it automatically. With out reading your manual I'm sure it's there. Vic

To love this comment, log in above
11/29/2004 6:37:16 PM

Ken Henry   White Balance to me is just toooo unaturaly white. To me everything turns Toupe and bland. Your eyes of course naturally adjust to many color casts. But, they do not eliminate them.

example: In your living room with all your tungsten lamps switched on, look at your monitor with the white balance turned on. You'll need to turn off your flash and use manual settings.

Now, look at your room aside from your camera. Does the white balance on your camera match the natural white balance from your eyes?

Next, set your camera to daylight and put an 80C blue filter in front of your lens. And see if you like the saturated colors better and of course the natural lighting.

To love this comment, log in above
11/29/2004 8:14:10 PM

Baloi    Thanks everybody! I appreciate all the help.

With sincere gratitude,

To love this comment, log in above
11/30/2004 5:13:17 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.