Today’s Question: Where do you buy 5000 Kelvin light bulbs? I get most of my prints made at Costco and their ambient light is suspect at best. I have to take the print out into the daylight outdoors to see what the print will really look like. And then my print will look different in my client’s residence depending on their ambient light situation. How do you deal with this?
Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a wide variety of options for 5000 Kelvin light sources, including replacement bulbs for standard fixtures (http://amzn.to/2h82WIP). There are also custom lamps and viewing booths you could consider. But ultimately the light used to illuminate a print can impact the experience of viewing that print.
More Detail: In an Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter last week I made reference to the fact that a 5000 Kelvin color temperature illuminant was the basis of a color-managed workflow. In other words, color management standards define a 5000 Kelvin light source as the color temperature that should be used for evaluating a print.
Evaluating a print is one thing, of course, but actually exhibiting the print can be something altogether different. In many gallery displays, for example, relatively warm halogen lighting is used to illuminate prints. In other cases you may have relatively cool (slightly blue) LED lighting, or even fluorescent tubes with a variety of possible color values.
In other words, a perfect color-managed workflow in your studio doesn’t always mean a print will be presented in a way that enables a truly accurate view of the colors in that print. The white point adaptation feature of human vision can help compensate for this issue, but it is certainly preferred to have consistent lighting for a print whenever possible.
As noted above, you can find a sample of a replacement bulb for a standard light fixture that provides a 5000 Kelvin color temperature by following this link:
In addition, there are dedicated print viewing booths, which provide a full environment for viewing the print under a 5000 Kelvin light source. You can find a sample of such a viewing booth by following this link:
To me the key is to make sure that your print looks perfect under standard viewing conditions. If you include a white matte around the photo you will help ensure that the white point adaptation of human vision will help compensate for the lighting in a variety of different environments. Otherwise, the only other solution would be to produce a print that is fine-tuned for the specific lighting under which it will be displayed. But that can obviously be a challenging proposition!