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Lucy Pinder's Colour Temperature

The importance of correct colour temperature settings for viewing photos

or, Why you should turn your monitor's colour temperature down to 5000K

CIE1931 chromaticity diagram

Ever wondered why sometimes photos of Lucy Pinder look crap on screen while the same photos look fine in Nuts? This is part of the answer...

What is "colour temperature"? To cut a long story short, it is a number expressing how warm or cold a light is and looks. Lower numbers mean colder temperatures but warmer-looking colours - red, orange or yellow shades. Higher numbers mean hotter temperatures but colder-looking colours with blue shades. (Yes, I know this is a bit back to front, but I didn't invent it...)

What colour temperatures do we come across in everyday life? Noon sunlight gives a colour temperature of about 5000K. Cloudy days actually give a higher temperature - up to 6500-7500K - because the cloud cuts down the yellow light more than the blue. Early morning or late evening when the Sun is low gives a colour temperature of about 4000K.

Photographers often prefer to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon because the lower colour temperature gives a more pleasing and warm light - high sunlight is often too harsh. This is especially the case for glamour photography because it is particularly important for skin tones. In the studio, the fixed lights have a colour temperature of 3000-3500K; flash is about 5000K.

Here is a handy chart showing colour temperatures for various different kinds of lighting...

Colour temperature chart

No doubt it will be instantly obvious that one particular item has a much, much higher colour temperature than anything else, and the more "natural" the "anything else" is, the bigger the difference, by and large. This item is of course the monitor... the thing you use to look at pictures of Lucy Pinder on the internet.

As a general rule, "electronic things" are supposed to be set up around the colour temperature standards "D50" (based on 5000K, noon sunlight) or "D65" (6500K, cloudy dull day). D65 is more common. As the chart makes clear, even that is a bit on the high side for most photography-related-type things, but it works well enough most of the time. But if that's what's supposed to happen, why is the monitor way out on the end and set up completely wrong?

The reason is that a monitor set up with a higher colour temperature looks brighter. So if you have a shop display with a bunch of monitors in a row, some set up correctly and some set up with a stupid colour temperature, the ones with the correct settings look dull and dingy next to the stupid ones. Of course in a sensible world this would result in people making sure the monitors on display are all set up correctly and there aren't any stupid ones. But since this is not a sensible world, what actually happens is that the monitors come from the factory set to stupid by default, and they stay like that.

They don't have to stay like that. The colour temperature can be adjusted; somewhere in that row of buttons along the bottom of the screen is a combination that brings up a colour temperature settings menu which you can use to turn it down at the least to 6500K and hopefully as far as 5000K. But most people don't realise it's there. And those who do realise it's there tend not to use it; when you enter a lower colour temperature setting, the first thing you notice is that the apparent brightness drops and the screen looks dingy, so if anyone does experiment with it they usually end up putting it straight back up again.

That initial impression is misleading. It's the same contrast/comparison thing as applies to shop displays. If you turn the colour temperature down, then go and make a cup of tea, and then come back and look at it, it doesn't look dingy. It looks better. But you have to realise that's going to happen in order to want to try it, and if you don't try it you don't realise it's going to happen...

So we have a whole bunch of people out there with their monitors adjusted appropriately for a planet orbiting Rigel, but who don't realise this...

And then problems arise when these people notice that their Lucy Pinder image collection looks odd, and instead of fixing the problem by setting their monitor up properly, go totally the wrong way about it and mess with the colour balance of the images themselves...

Messed up

Here is an example of exactly that happening. The first image, a scan from Lucy Pinder's very first Loaded shoot back in 2003, was made using a system with a monitor correctly set up for a primary use of viewing/editing glamour photos. The colour is still a bit weird because it was shot like that, but the scan should display as a correct representation of the original printed image.

Someone with a 1440x870 pixel display then saw that scan and decided it would make him a good wallpaper, so he scaled it down to fit. Fine... except that as well as having 1440x870 pixels, his monitor had a stupid colour temperature configured, so the pic didn't look right. And rather than correcting the screwed monitor settings, he compensated by screwing the correctly-balanced image... he made it bright orange in order to make up for the lack of redness in his monitor.

This sort of thing happens a lot. There are a whole bunch of scans scattered around the net which are bright orange because whoever scanned them didn't set up their monitor properly and messed with the colour balance of the image instead. There is also the phenomenon of people complaining that a scan or other image made using a correctly-set monitor gets complained about by people who don't realise that it's their monitor settings which are the problem.

So if you think an image of Lucy Pinder has an unnaturally pale and bluish skin tone... CHECK YOUR MONITOR!!! Play with the buttons at the bottom of the screen until you find the colour temperature settings menu. Then turn it down to the lowest it will go. 5000K if your monitor will do that. 6500K at least if that's all you can do. But do the best it will let you. 9500K is right out.