Colour Balance

New 5000K Light Bulbs


Yesterday I decided to invest in some decent light for the layout room.  Until now, I have been using Warm White fluorescent tubes in the 4 double light fixtures above the layout.

Taking photographs under this light, in this room, has always been a challenge.  The room is painted two tone beige (yellow).  The floor is yellow, and the lights were yellow, so therefore all the images had a yellow shift to them.

Until now I have been editing each image to balance the colour, with varying degrees of success.  For every image posted here I usually took two or three and selected the one I could get balanced.

I bought some 5000K Natural Sunshine tubes.  The advantage with these is I can set the white balance on my camera to 5000K and get very accurate colour representation.  Now, the images need no adjustment, plus the colour in the room is much more precise.

When ever I have set the layout up in a different room I notice the change in colour.  When working under the warm white light that was previously in this room I would match colour accordingly, when displayed under different light the difference was quite noticeable.

With the new bulbs, which have one of the highest rating of colour accuracy, at least I know what I am doing is as close as possible.


The image above was shot under the original warm white bulbs, with no flash.  The yellow shift in the colour is very noticeable.  I have been fixing this manually.


Same image as before, but using the new 5000K Natural Sunshine bulbs.  The difference is very noticeable.  The colours are balanced almost perfectly.  No post processing was done to this picture.


The picture above, was shot under the warm white bulbs, but using a flash on the camera.  From a distance this works fairly well, it balances out the colours, but I hate using a flash.  One of the issues with a flash is the sharp shadows and high contrast it adds to an image.  Close up pictures will be very washed out and the images are unsuitable.


The difference in light colour can really be seen from outside.  The layout room at the left of the image is illuminated  with the new 5000K lights, while the rest of the house has very yellow/orange warm incandescent light.


While the bulbs were a bit expensive, $9 each, they are well worth it.  I should have made this change a long time ago, would have saved me lots of time trying to fix images.


One last issue to address now.  When I edit images on the computer in the house then look at them on another machine, I notice they are always a bit on the dark side.  I need to adjust the brightness of the monitor I am using to match others.  Of course, who knows which is actually correct.  The image above, on the computer I am using at the moment, looks dark to me, but in the house it looks fine.







All the images above were shot under the new 5000K bulbs, with the camera’s white balance set to match.


About the Author:

I'm your host, Tim Warris, a product developer in Port Dover, Ontario. Since March of 2007 I have been documenting the construction of the former CNJ Bronx Terminal in HO scale. For my day job, I design track building tools for Fast Tracks, a small company I own and operate. Fast Tracks makes it fast and easy to hand lay your own trackwork. Stop by our website to learn more!

Posted by: Tim | 04-06-2009 | 09:04 AM
Posted in: LaSalette Freemo Module | Latest Posts


  1. Tim – use a values color-target. It’s like a Gretag MacBeth color target, except it has a strip of 256 grey shade values, which is the most you’re going to be dealing with in an 8 bit Photoshop-like environment. Adjust the monitor until you see distint shades without blowing out the top or plugging up the bottom.

    You can use it on both your monitors to provide a steady/consistent setting. Should be close enough for the work you do. Ideally, everything would be in a calibrated color-profiled environment, but that’s probably more than you care to know right now…

    Comment by Chris Arsenault — April 6, 2009 @ 10:42 am
  2. Great post!
    The set of multiple shots really proves the point.
    The colour and quality difference between the lights is unreal. Anyone planning on taking a few shots of their layout should invest.
    What does this do for your video?

    Comment by David — April 6, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

Comments RSS TrackBack URI


Leave a comment