Understanding How Color Temperature Works

Color temperature is a fundamental aspect to consider when considering lighting in photography. Unbalanced color temperatures can greatly affect the final outcome of your images and is a primary concern when trying to create visual impact. 

In order to have a better grasp of understanding color temperature, try to imaging that when we view a piece of paper by candle light, fluorescent lighting or in daylight, paper will always look white. But in actuality, our brain tells us to ignore the variations in color the different light sources produce and only see what we expect to see as paper being white. Light is actually comprised of a multitude of different colors, and the human eye can only perceive the difference in hues at the extreme ends of the scale.  

Color temperature is usually measured in degrees Kelvin (K), and this type of scale is a feature in some digital cameras as an acute way of manually setting up the camera for lighting situations.But all digital cameras have a useful function that automatically adjusts the color of the pictures they record to fit the lighting that is detected in a particular scene. This is more commonly known as auto white balance (AWB). This uses electronic filtration at the processing stage to correct the color temperature it detects in a scene and is probably one of the essential factors you may have to consider when preparing your lighting for a shoot. It is easy to conclude that indoor lighting can have an orange tinge in color, but in actuality, even daylight can have varying colors. Natural lighting depending on the time of the day, clouds and weather conditions all impact color temperature. They all contribute in affecting the mixture of colors or wavelengths. The camera detects the whole surrounding area and automatically assesses the white balance in every shot.

Color balancing is different for every type of source of light you will be using whether it be for tungsten lighting or daylight. The easiest way to check for white balance is to use the white balance option in your digital camera, find a white cardboard and hold it up to your cameras lens making sure that the card fills the whole lens, and finally push the set button. This would allow you to notice the distinction on the LCD screen. You can then gauge the correct whiteness and make the necessary adjustments based on what you see. 

Balancing color temperatures can be tricky, but you can purchase color correction gels, tinted cellophane or you can even switch bulbs to go with the color temperatures for the scene. You can even pay around with color balance for artistic output. You can also rectify unwanted color casts in post processing with the use of the Color Balance, the Hue/Saturation or the Selective Color adjustment options. Your images don’t necessarily always have to be properly balanced. When you can play around with color temperatures and create artistic effects that can complement your images when used in the proper way.

Always remember that photography is a way for creative output, have fun experimenting, who knows, you just may create your very own masterpiece.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 10:37 am and is filed under Articles, Lighting, Photography Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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