Presentation Recap: Color It's All In Your Head

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I attended a great presentation on color at the Houston Center for Photography (in November). Photographer Scott Campbell provided some great information in this talk.

Below are the notes I gathered from the talk

Challenges, as photographers, of all the color reproduction systems

  • Human Eye - sees 7-10 million colors
  • Camera/Scanner - 3 million colors
  • Modern day LCD monitor - 2 million colors
  • Slides/Transparencies - 17,000 colors
  • Ink Jet printer - 10,000 colors
  • Printing press (to magazine) - 6,000 colors

Nature of Human Vision

What is color? Phenomenon of light

Phenomenon - thing as it appears or is constructed by the mind.

5 phenomenon: taste, smell, hearing, seeing , feeling

We have the worst memory of sight

In order for color to happen there must be 3 things present

  • Observer
  • Object
  • Light

Characteristics of light (the physics)

Electromagnetic spectrum

electromagnetic spectrum

Red, Green and Blue (RGB) are the primary colors of white light

  • Red light + Green light = Yellow light
  • Green light + Blue light = Cyan light

Characteristics of the eye

  • Lens - gathers light
  • Retina
  • Fovea - color is created

The Fovea contains rods that are sensitive to contrast/luminosity and cones that are sensitive to color.

Women have more cones than rods which mean they see vibrant colors better than men.

Men have more rods than cones which mean they see more contrast and luminosity than women.

Some colors are created by a sensation in the brain. For example, when the green and blue cones in the fovea become stimulated, electrical pulses go to the brain and the mind creates the sensation of cyan. Same with a banana, the red and green cones become stimulated creating the sensation of yellow.

Magenta is a made-up color that is created when the red and blue cones are stimulated. Magenta is the inverse of green.

R + G + B

   Y    C



There is no Magenta in the rainbow; however, two prisms overlapped can create Magenta.

Problems to Overcome with Color

  • Chromatic Adaptation
  • Color Adjacency
  • Fovea Fatigue

5000 Kelvin = Pure White Light

Different kinds of light (incandescent, florescent, etc) affect the way you see colors.