My friend, previously a photographer, said that if you are taking photos in cold weather the photo is more blue (as if a slight blue filter has been applied). Inversely, taking photos when it is warm — the photo will have a reddish tone. He argues that this is dependent solely on (ambient, not color) temperature.

I would be interested in knowing if this is the case, and if so, why.

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    I think you might have misunderstood your friend. He was probably referring to the colour temperature, not the ambient temperature. This previous answer might be helpful. Jan 17 '14 at 10:52
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    No, this is precisely what he stated (my formulation): in a room where only ambient temperature varies the color will vary (more blue if cold, more red if hot). It's very strange for me, that means that some elements in the photo-camera have termochromatic properties. Jan 17 '14 at 11:01
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    Then he is mistaken.
    – Michael C
    Jan 17 '14 at 11:02
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    "previously a photographer"... this might explain why :-D Jan 17 '14 at 11:04
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    You are correct, in a room where only ambient temperature varies the colour will vary, though not until you reach several hundred degrees!
    – Matt Grum
    Jan 17 '14 at 12:46

I think he, or you, are mixing up "colour Temperature" with actual colour.

There are many factors that can affect how a photo looks, however actual ambient temperature is not one of them.

The main factor that affects colour in photography is the composition of the incident light. What is referred to as "cool" means the light source has a blueish tint, a "warm" light source has a reddish tint.

Colour temperature (and in turn White Balance, which you can set in digital photography or by selecting different film) can be used to imply warm or cool weather:

e.g. Beach scene = warm, with yellows (sand etc)
Skiing scene = cool, with mostly blues from the sky and whites from the snow.

  • Sorry i didnt explain that bit quite right, i edited it just as you posted the comment! Jan 17 '14 at 11:02
  • Well ok, i know what you are saying, if you want to re-word my answer please go ahead. I mean its not something that can be set or changed in-camera on-the-fly. On a side note, why did Michael Clark feel compelled to change my (correct British) spelling of 'Colour' to the american 'color'? Jan 17 '14 at 11:12
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    We actually have a meta discussion about British vs. American spellings. Consensus is: tags should be "standardized" to American English, while posts should be left in the native... flavour.
    – mattdm
    Jan 17 '14 at 13:22
  • Ahh I missed that one! I was trying to find the "Site Guidelines" that Michael referred to in his edit comment. I have therefore changed my answer back to Ye Olde ENGLISH :-) (Because I'm in that sort of mood today!) Jan 17 '14 at 13:41

Your friend may have been referring to film photography, otherwise his assertion is just silly.

The sensitivity of film varies somewhat with temperature. Color film is really three separate sensitive layers in the same film. Each of those can vary differently with temperature. There could therefore conceivably be a slide film where the sensitivity of blue drops off less quickly with cold than does the sensitivity of green and red.

For color negative film, this assertion is again silly because nobody would expect color negative film to record absolute color anyway. It would be relative to some white or gray reference shot at the scene with that lighting at that temperature, so differences in the sensitivity of the magenta, cyan, and yellow layers wouldn't matter. The differences from batch to batch would probably be larger than between a cold and hot day outside anyway.

  • so you are saying that color negatives ARE in fact temperature dependent. Jan 17 '14 at 13:54
  • It would be remarkable if the different color layers in color film had exactly the same temperature dependence. However, I think such effect is very small, smaller than than other variations in overall color cast you already have to deal with anyway. Jan 17 '14 at 14:00
  • To be fair, it could also be a vague, half-remembered version of "you know, those snow scenes always turned out bluer than I thought they would". It may have been cold at the time, but it's the blue-sky reflections from all of those little ice crystals on the ground that did the trick (and things that are directly illuminated would actually be a bit warmer around midday).
    – user2719
    Jan 17 '14 at 14:59
  • @OlinLathrop - you say "the sensitivity of blue drops off more quickly with cold than does the sensitivity of green and red." (Slide film) - Would this then actually have the opposite effect? meaning there is LESS blue in cold-film images? Jan 17 '14 at 15:32
  • It's possible, but I think the "confused friend" theory is more likely.
    – mattdm
    Jan 17 '14 at 17:14

I think you're friend was getting confused, colour temperature is different to ambient temperature. Blue is classed as 'cool' and red is 'warm'.

Different light sources have a different 'colour temperature', eg LED lights, fluorescent tubes and energy saving bulbs often tend to be 'cool', incandescent lights tend to be 'warm'.

Purely by coincidence it often corresponds with the physical temperature (ie: incandescent bulbs are too hot to touch whereas fluorescent tubes and LEDs can often be touched while they're on (don't try that though!)).

The white balance function in a camera or editing software is designed to correct this, I think by using known 'colour temperatures' on the Kelvin scale.

Try searching Google Images for 'colour temperature scale' and you will get some good ideas about where different light sources fall on it

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