Tungsten and Fluorescent Lighting

This was an interesting exercise as tungsten lighting is becoming increasingly difficult to find due to it’s inefficiency and being superseded by fluorescent lighting. Although there is no outright ban on them they are dying out quickly. This exercise required me to find both tungsten and fluorescent lighting to take photographs of to show the difference in quality and colour that lighting type each throws out. In each case I needed to take three shots of each set up (without flash but using a high ISO). One at ‘AWB’ (Auto White Balance), one at Tungsten (or Fluorescent) and one on another white balance to further show the colour difference.

I stumbled across some tungsten lighting accidentally in a bar one day and luckily had a camera with me to take the shots required. I waited until the room was fairly dark until I took the shots. The bar was quite dark even though there were a lot of these lights and the ISO was high. Taking it at anything like a low ISO (200-400) resulted in shutter speeds in excess of 1sec. Not feasible for hand held shooting. The results are below and annotated. The shots were taken at around ISO1000 which I found unexpectedly low given how dark it to looked to my eyes.

I’m surprised at how warm the light given off by the tungsten is on all white balance settings. AWB has a bit of a green hue to it, but on the whole is still quite warm. With the tungsten setting switched on (so this should be it’s natural look) it becomes cooler than it’s counterparts but still a warm look. I used the fluorescent WB setting to further show how changing the WB affects the final image. It is the warmest of the three and underexposed which accentuates the warmth. This is a very nice light to shoot in as it it very local (i.e. makes pools of light) which makes for interesting shapes and contrasts. I find it a much cosier, friendlier light than fluorescent, which smacks of hospitals wards and doctors surgeries. Clean and impersonal.

The above shots were all taken in fluorescent lighting in two different locations. The tungsten white balance is my third setting for colour difference this time. What immediately notable with all the images lined up is that the colour balance varies massively unlike the tungsten. There seems to be a lot of green mixed in with a helping of blue. Those shot on the ‘correct’ WB are warmer but still have a sickly hue to them that is not very appealing. AWB struggles with this type of lighting and produces a very different result with each shot of the shopping mall and lift lobby respectively. This is because the light source is not constant and doesn’t throw out anything like a pure white light. By the time AWB has assessed the situation and the shutter is pressed the white balance has changed again. The most constant colour is given by the fluorescent setting with the added warmth but is still not very true to the scene which looked a lot cooler/bluer to the human eye, especially in the shopping mall. The warm colour in the lift lobby can also be attributed to the curtains and carpets which give it the luxurious feel.

One other thing to note was that there was a big difference in my ISO settings between the two different scenes. The shopping mall was shot at ISO640 while the lift lobby had me reaching for ISO16000. Indeed as I walked in to the hotel from a sunny exterior I wondered if I would be able to shoot at all. The loft lobby was by far and away the brightest area in this high-end hotel.


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