I know there are several apps in the music world (such as functional ear training) that 'train' you to recognize certain intervals within keys by playing notes and then having you pick what the interval is. I'm wondering if there are any similar apps for the photography industry. For example showing various colored lights and having you pick the approx color temperature/white balance.

It would be interesting, I think, to be able to become more perceptive to these sort of things rather than just relying on a light meter or some such device, and i think an app would be a good way to do this.

Do you know of any apps of this sort or similar that are used to improve visual perception of light and color?

  • Start your eye training with this xritephoto.com/cool-tools Color IQ Test. – Stan Jul 1 '16 at 17:08
  • We humans do not have the ability to recognize absolute color. – whatsisname Jul 3 '16 at 8:02

With experience you become more aware as to how lighting and the color of the illuminant will change the way a vista will reproduce. You begin to see that shadows on snow have a blueish tint and you become aware that tungsten lighting is biased towards the yellow.

We humans see with our eye/brain and that complicates. Try this enlightening experiment. Procure some strong colored filters, you know, deep red, strong yellow, strong green. No filters? OK, colored transparent cellophane candy wrappers etc.

Now hold one of the strong filters before just one eye. Look about keeping one eye is strongly filtered, the other not. After about two or three minutes, remove the filter and look about. You will find that the color balance of the filtered eye is quite different than the unfiltered eye. This demonstrates how the eye/brain combination effects color vision. All day long, as you move from place to place and anytime the color of the illuminant changes, your perception of color changes.

What happens is, the color receptors on the retina change their sensitivity. In other words, the eye/brain attempts to adjust the lighting condition to “normal”. You are unaware because it happens simultaneously to both eyes. In this experiment only one eye is changed; thus you become aware of the magnitude of this phenomenon.

Do perform this experiment; it will help you understand white balance.

I suggest you read "Color As Seen And Photographed" an out of print Kodak publication E-74

  • I'll take exception to the claim of "...change sensitivity." It's usually the case that bleaching due to saturation causes an imbalance when you remove the filter -- the equivalent of what's called an "afterimage." – Carl Witthoft Jun 29 '16 at 15:39
  • 2
    The human eye is remarkable in its ability to change its sensitivity to light. Check out Purkinje Effect. – Alan Marcus Jun 29 '16 at 15:58
  • @CarlWitthoft Eye adaptation is an example of this phenomenon. The haptic equivalent is acclimatize. – Stan Jul 1 '16 at 16:56

I rather doubt it, since perceived color has little to do with actual color balance. That's why you tend to interpret the color of an object as immutable whether you observe it in direct sunlight, late afternoon (sunset), or indoor incandescent lighting.

The only reason we can tell, say, fluorescent vs. low-temperature (Edison bulb) incandescent is that the color ranges are incredibly different, and even then it's difficult to do unless the two sources are side-by-side.

BTW, a light meter will tell you nothing about the color balance.


It occurs to me that many digital cameras provide the option to view a histogram of the R,G,B intensities in a scene. You could try studying those under different illuminations to see if you can convince yourself that there's any correlation between the histograms and your direct color balance perception.

  • If the lighting conditions remain the same, there is (just!). Otherwise, no. – wizzwizz4 Jun 29 '16 at 16:19
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    @Carl Witthoft It depends on the light meter. RGB+ir light meters do exist. Cameras such as the Canon 1D X Mark II, 7D Mark II, and the Nikon D5 use such light meters. – Michael C Jun 29 '16 at 20:56

I've never seen any apps that can train you that way, but I have seen a smartphone colorimeter apps that identify colors, as well as an actual smartphone colorimeter/light meter (or at least its Kickstarter).

There are more apps to simulate exposure settings, to help train you in appropriate exposure settings for a given scene (e.g., CameraSim). That seems to be more concrete and useful for photography students.


You can receive training to help you become more aware, but not more perceptive, in the way you mean. Perception is not absolute with fixed values; but, is relative to the abilities of your senses on a continuum.

You can become aware that something should be happening on an intellectual level. Such a revelation is set into action with an observation and a trained reaction to the observation.
For example:
Oh, the light has changed. I'd better do something to compensate for that difference, etc.

You cannot be trained to perceive if or when a fixed point has been attained by using your senses although you can be aware of the direction in which a change has occurred.
For example:
Oh, the light has changed. I'd better bring the white up… [so far, so good] by 1800 kelvins to the D65 white-point. [No.]
This is NOT possible. This scenario could NEVER happen. We're not good at absolute values.

In your question, you refer to the intervals between the notes which is a comparable analogy

We're better at when than we are with how much situations.

  • To elaborate a little on that last line: There are people with "perfect pitch" to an impressive degree, but our ability to perceive absolute periodicity pretty much goes away above the frequencies of the audio spectrum. With color, it's about perceiving relative quantities of red, green, and blue... and in the audio domain our perception of fluctuation in amplitude is vastly less precise than it is with fluctuations in frequency as well. – junkyardsparkle Jul 1 '16 at 5:31

Take an image of a white wall that has some structure/texture to it. Now take the white balance color picker in your favourite photo editor and click around in the image.

You will see that even within a white wall, the color temperature is different, although these differences are not perceivable on the white wall (it all looks white), applying the correction for the different color temperatures creates a perceivable difference in the image.

Color temperature can differ even within the "same" color, which (in general) cannot be perceived and a tool is necessary to get the correct color temperature.

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