Objects (Level 2)

University of Rochester Chapel Stained Glass
Stained glass is beautiful to look at. We see it as sparkling when we are inside a building because the colors are usually the brightest things we see. This picture shows a stained glass window with the sun right behind it. It took a special kind of photography to make this picture. Most cameras would make the glass look less colorful and less bright.

Why do Colors of Stained Glass Windows Look so Beautiful and Different from Other Objects?

They look beautiful because they are beautiful! And it is our own preferences that determine what is beautiful.

Even though beauty is a personal choice, most people agree that the colors we see when looking at stained glass windows from inside a dark building are very beautiful. The same is true when we see the windows from outside at night and the lights are on inside the building. The special colors we see in the windows are caused by the way our eyes and brains perceive color. We are always judging colors in relation to other colors that are nearby. This lets us see that a black cat and a white piece of paper always look black and white, even when the amount of light falling on them changes.

Stained glass windows take those comparisons to an extreme. The windows are often much brighter than their surroundings and that makes them appear to glow, much like the bright lights we see on Christmas trees or in fireworks displays. When colors are much brighter than their surroundings, they also look much more colorful to us. So, once again, it is how our eyes and brain work that makes the colors look so special.

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Ever wonder ... Why aren't my photographs the same colors as the original scenes?


Updated: Jan. 25, 2010