Your Red Dress could be My Blue Dress: How different types of light affects how we view colors

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Article by Charlize Tan-Lim

We all see color in objects differently, which depends on the mix of light frequencies that reach the human eye. Light is made up of different wavelengths that coordinate with specific colors, and the color we see is a result of the wavelengths reflected or transmitted back to our eyes. Different people can view the same object in different colors when the same wavelengths hit their eyes, which makes us all very unique!

diagram depicting visible light spectrum rainbow wavelength light waves
Image from Byju’s

Physically, people have three different photoreceptors in the backs of their eyes which makes them see red, blue, and green differently. But a major factor has to do with the types of light that affect how humans see colors differently from others. For example, you may look at the same photograph of an object on a computer screen, and then see that the same photograph is a different color on a phone screen. This is a phenomenon called color constancy, which ensures that the perceived color of an object remains constant, despite changes in the illumination environment.

Color constancy is where two different colors in any photo are actually the same color. Viewing the image in a blue-lit room near a bright window can cause objects to appear white. But viewing the same image in an artificial lit setting, or yellow light will think the object is darker. Different lighting, either from the Sun or fluorescent, change the colors of the things they illuminate.

Models in bright colorful outfits on the runway
Image from TheFashionTag

There is no image altering or any trick photography involved; the majority of it has to do with our perception of colors. It all comes down to individual perception and the lighting environment within viewing the image. We should grow to be more comfortable with the idea that different people perceive things differently than we do. AsapSCIENCE has a video explaining why many people view the same object in different colors: click here to watch!