Photography Lighting: Color Temperature

Color temperature is one of the most basic factors that you have to account for in photography lighting. Uneven temperatures can make your picture look anywhere from amateurish to artistic. Here is how you can overcome color temperature obstacles and use it to enhance your work.

Step 1- Understanding Color Temperature

You might not realize this, but all lights have different colors. Typical tungsten lights in your home have a slightly orange color while day light is blue and most fluorescent lights are green. These are a result of the color temperature. If you were to measure color temperature the lights in your house would be 3200k while daylight is 5500k. Your eyes automatically compensate and adjust to this, but your camera won't on its own. That's why you need to white balance.

Step 2- Setting White Balance

Deciding the white balance is one of the most important strategical decisions you'll make for your lighting set up. If you're shooting indoors, then maybe you'll balance for tungsten and if you're outside or in a room with a lot of windows you'll want to balance for day light. Most cameras are pretty standard when it comes to white balancing. Find the white balance in the menu, hold up a white card to the lens filling it, and push the set button. You should see the difference on an LCD screen. If it doesn't look white, try setting it again and moving the card so it is evenly covered in light. if you're still having problems refer to your camera manual.

Step 3- Balancing Color Temperatures

There are ways to control color temperatures. You can buy color correction gels in most photography stores. For example, you can place Color Correction Blue on a light with a tungsten bulb in it to make it look like day light. If you're shooting inside, you can place Color Correction Minus Green on fluorescent lights and then add your own to make the temperatures look even. However, you should be aware that adding gels to lights reduces its intensity.

Gels are just tinted cellophane, but they can be a little expensive. You might want to buy or rent lights that have bulbs that can be swapped out to match color temperatures. This could be quicker and cheaper than getting gels. But if you accidentally break a bulb it can cost a lot to replace.

Step 4- Use Color Temperature to Your Advantage

Unbalanced temperatures can look amateurish but it can also look artistic when used the right way. Slightly blue light coming from up above for a shot during the night can look like it comes from the moon. Color Temperature Straw can make a picture look like it's sunrise or sunset and theatrical gels can tint the color's to create a mood. Remember though, you want the light to look natural and motivated. If it's too noticeable then people will thinks its fake and call attention to it.  Remember, photography is a creative art. Use color temperature to your advantage.

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