Tips For Understanding White Balance And Color Temperature

Photography - 101 Basic Photography Concepts
23 minutes
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In this video, we're talking about white balance and color temperature. And specifically, I have six things. Let me count this right six things that I want you guys to know when it comes to white balance and color temperature. And don't worry, this subject, especially if you're first getting in photography, it sounds confusing. We talked about things like degrees Kelvin. And we talked about all these different measurements and numbers and it sounds extremely scientific, but we're going to break down in a very simple way.

And that's starting from the top with number one. color temperature. All this is talking about is simply the color of a light source. every type of light puts off a different type of color, basically in its wavelength. Okay, we don't need to get into the science of this. To be honest, I'm not a scientist and I wouldn't be able to explain it anyway.

All you need to know is a photographer that every type of light has its own color. Now I've put together this handy dandy simple look at color temperatures chart, which I'm quite proud of. But let's start over here on the indoor side. Now, color temperatures are measured in degrees Kelvin. Not degrees Fahrenheit. world uses the metric system, which it should I don't know why here in the United States we feel like we need to use whatever we have here.

It would make no sense if it was degrees Fahrenheit, okay? degrees Kelvin. That is how its measured and that numbers simply indicates where it falls on this little color spectrum. So over here on the left side, we have our reds going to the middle we have oranges, we have yellows, we have our neutral whites going in, we have a little bit light blues and then going into deeper blues. So if it's a basically a lower number, if it's 1700 to say 900 degrees Kelvin, it's going to be in that red range when we go up to 70 510,000 degrees Kelvin, it goes into that blue range. So let's talk about an indoor light well match matches flames like off fire not well, that's not necessarily indoors.

Don't Don't light flames indoors but like let's say you're camping that type of a light or say the candle light. Okay, so light coming up a candle which you might indeed light indoors. Also there's um, candle light type electronic lights. electric lights, not electronic, I guess. But those also are kind of in this range where they put up a very red to orange lights. So that's around 1700 to 1900 degrees Kelvin.

Moving into household tungsten lights, those are basically lights that you'd screw into a light fixture, the typical cheap lights that you bind a store that you put all over your house. Those are roughly in the range of 2500 degrees Kelvin. Now again, it ranges Okay, so don't be surprised if it's around 2700 or 3000 degrees Kelvin, it is going to vary a bit. And oftentimes when you buy lights, they'll actually tell you the color temperature right there on the box. Going into say a halogen light like the lights that are on your car if you don't have Xenon and those kind of things. halogen lights.

Also a lot of indoor lights are also halogen based lights. Those are ranging around 3000 degrees Kelvin, going into the CFL and fluorescent lights that kind of lights that are tubular, those are actually particularly nasty. These are the the fluorescent lights that you basically put up in offices they put off they use basically type of gas like sodium gas mixture thing inside of them and it puts off a lot of green which we're going to talk about in just a second. But the white balance or the the color temperature of those lights is around 4200 degrees Kelvin. And then going into other lights that you might use indoors Okay, these aren't necessarily indoor lights, they're just like they might use indoors because they're fantastic lights, well flashes. Whether using a studio strobe like this one, this is an Einstein or a pocket strobe.

This is the Luma pro lp 180 these flashes are designed to be a neutral white and that is at 5500 degrees Kelvin, which is that same color temperature at basically average noon day sunny day type lighting, okay, and that's designed to be that way because from that white balance, you can kind of go anywhere with it. It's neutral and so you can kind of go to the more blue side or you can go to the more yellow side by tinting or sorry by jelling the light. I'll show you exactly what I mean. This is an ice light. Okay, this is an LED light that comes daylight white balance. So this is balanced 3500 degrees.

You can actually gel it with this little cap. And every one of these lights we're going to talk more about lighting and jelling and all this kind of stuff when we get a lighting 112131 so be sure to check out those workshops because they're gonna be fantastic for learning lighting. But this gels it down to around 32 to 3600 degrees Kelvin. Okay, so now I can balance this, if I'm going indoors, I would use this if I was going outdoors, I would use the natural daylight balance, or I can use it for effect as well, which I want to talk about in just a moment. This is a GL one, this is another LED light, but this LED light happens to be balanced to tungsten naturally and you can actually get a daylight filter, which will convert it back to daylight. So natural like this.

It's around 34 3600 degrees Kelvin. And if you take it with a daylight filter, it puts it back up to 5500 degrees Kelvin. Okay, so every one of these different lights has a different color temperature. But that's all indoors. That's all artificial, basically manmade type lights. What about outdoors?

What about just natural ambient light sunlight has its own color temperature too. And it actually varies. A lot of people think that sunlight just stays at 5500 degrees Kelvin, which is that noonday color temperature, but it doesn't, it actually fluctuates as well. So, if you were to get up for sunrise, I know it's really early. Nobody gets up for sunrise. Actually, if you're a landscape photographer, you do that probably a ton, but sunrise or sunset for those that are more of an evening person.

That color temperature of that light you'll notice is very, very orange. Sometimes it can be borderline red, depending where you are in the world and what kind of smog you have here in LA we have lots of beautiful smog which happens to turn sunlight into all sorts of degrees of orange and slightly red hues. But it looks really cool. Anyway that varied between 2003 thousand degrees Kelvin, going into early morning and say mid afternoon it can go that 3500 degrees to 4500 Kelvin. Once you hit that afternoon that noon day light on a sunny day. That is that standard neutral white light 5500 degrees Kelvin, which is what flashes are balanced to that is basically almost like a pure white type of light.

Okay, and then you go into cloudy and overcast and shade. In cloudy weather on on overcast days when you go into shade even on a sunny day, your white balance has changed or your color temperature will change between around 6000 to 7000 degrees Kelvin. And then going into blue skies and Twilight and nighttime It can range between 7500 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin or beyond. Okay, so the color temperature of sunlight also changes. Now why do I say color temperature and not the white balance? Well, because color temperature is the measurement of the color of the light white balance refers to the actual camera setting where we're basically telling the camera what we want that neutral point to be, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

That's actually tip number three. Before we move on to tip number three, let's not skip tip number two, which is to remember that some of these lights they can also put off tinting along with their color. For example, the most notorious of these is these sodium vapor fluorescent lights. These are the lights that fall into this 4200 degree Kelvin color temperature range, the light, long, tubular lights that are hung in offices and that kind of stuff. There's not a very pleasing light to look at, but they're very efficient. And that's why people use them so much.

That's why companies and everyone put these all over the place. Those lights are notorious because they put off a heavy, heavy green tint, basically, in the wavelengths for that light, the green spikes, and so when you put a person underneath that, and you take a photograph of them, they're gonna look like the Incredible Hulk. Now, if it's a dude, and they're working out a lot, they might want to look like the Incredible Hulk. But in general, most people do not want to look like the Incredible Hulk. So what we have to do with those is we actually have to change not only the white balance, but we also have to change the tent. If you're shooting RAW, you can do this in post production, you could just tent for more green to more magenta and we basically counteract if it's green, you would adjust to be more magenta.

If it's magenta, you would add Just to be more green, but just remember that each one of these lights can also have a tinting color effect as well. So don't be surprised if you set your white balance and things still look green or they still look pink or whatever it is in your image. Okay, now let's move on to tip number three. And this is to set your camera's white balance and every camera is going to have basically different options available to you. So for example, this is an advanced DSLR This is the Canon Mark three and I use this camera just to show you that this camera has every one of these functions available to you. Okay, so something like a Nikon D 805, D Mark three as Sony A seven Those were all going to have every color temperature option or white balance option available to you.

Which means that not only can I go ahead and I can hit this white balance button and I can adjust between the different presets. So it has presets for sunlight. It has presets for shade it has for overcast it has it for tungsten lighting, fluorescent lighting, flash lighting, it has a custom white balance that we can use for Say gray cards, which is again, not a one on one type topic. But we'll get into that when we talk about studio lighting. And it also has a way that we can dial in just a specific Kelvin setting. This has all those functions available in addition to the automatic white balance AWB now, one quick note, if you're using auto white balance, it's okay to use it in daylight, it generally does a pretty good job when you're outdoors, it's still gonna be a little bit off, especially if you're going to shade but around that 5500 degree Kelvin range, it does a decent job.

Once you bring it indoors, auto white balance generally doesn't get you quite where you want to be. I'd recommend really just learning to set your white balance regardless of a senior and even if you're outdoors, say your white balance if you're indoors, say your white balance. But this camera has all those functions available. A more simple camera let's say a rebel or a basic entry level camera might only have white balance precess meaning that there's no way to dial in a specific Kelvin number. On this one I can actually go like this. Watch this.

I'll do it actually will go on The menu for this because I want to demonstrate one other thing. So if I go into the menu and I go to white balance, I can actually flip right over here to Kelvin and I can dial this up and down. That may or may not be available to you, depending on the camera make and model. Okay, so some of these more advanced features like that might not be available. All right, so that is how we set our white house. Now, my recommendation to you is to set your white balance to essentially the appropriate light in the scene, what you're telling your camera is what is the neutral light, you're telling your camera, I'm in a scene, that's all tungsten lighting.

I want you to treat tungsten as if it were neutral as if it were white light. Okay, so it bounces everything to that and your images come out without a super yellow or orange hue, which we're going to show you in just a moment. Before I get into show you guys some images. I want to show you one other thing. And this is Tip number four. This is my favorite way to adjust white balance and again, this depends on your camera because I know some Nikon cameras don't allow this or they don't have this function, basically But try this out switch into your cameras Live View.

Now from Live View, you can actually see your scene just by looking at actually have a nice little This is my mannequin over here I'm going to dress him up in a pirate costume soon, okay, because he's going to be my studio pirate so I can talk about him, actually, I'm gonna, I'm gonna dress him up as a troll, so I can refer to him as the studio troll. So from here, if we hit white balance, if we hit that button, you can see that the white balance will actually pop up. And if we put this on to Kelvin, I can actually change my white balance right here. And basically what this allows me to do is I can dial in the white balance, visually with every single scene that I go into, and it's very simple, I don't need to take any test shots and and adjust and so forth.

I can adjust it visually once and just leave it there. I'm just gonna hit enter basically, and then it's set. Okay, so that's my preferred way of adjusting light balance. Tip number five is that if you are shooting in raw, you can always adjust white balance and tint completely you have complete control over it in post production. Now that doesn't mean don't think Get it in your camera. Sometimes I get lazy.

I think we all get lazy at times and we just go put on auto white balance and we'll fix it later. But really, it is best to do it in camera, especially if you have the time. Let me go ahead and we're going to work through a couple images. I'm just going to show you a few images and show you the differences between them. Okay, so let's go ahead and start with let's do this image, for example. This image was shot inside at a wedding and it was very much an orange type of lighting, more matching like candlelight and you can see that basically the types of lights they're using are like these.

They're basically lights that mimic candlelight. So we're talking about that 2000 degrees Kelvin range. Also, the lights that are using like these big floodlights have been jailed multiple times to match that same color temperature. So when we don't adjust white balance, this is what the shot looks like. Okay, so it's very, very sorry, very, very orange. I must have green.

You guys gonna be like pie Are you colorblind? And look, we're already at 3000 degrees Kelvin and it's still extremely orange. To yellow. So what do we have to do, we have to dial the temperature down. Okay, so this is an illustration, if you're shooting in raw, you have complete control this later on. Now, if you set the camera to its neutral point, which is, let's say in a scene like this to get our colors to go completely white, that's a 2000 degrees Kelvin.

But generally, I like to go a little bit warmer than that. And we're going to talk about that in just a moment that white balance is kind of a creative decision to, but what we do is just fix the white balance. So we get somewhere maybe like around here, we have this nice kind of warmth to it, but it's much more neutral than it was way up here and that 3000 range where everything is just pure orange. Now, if you're shooting JPEG, you need to make sure that you dial in your Kelvin in camera because when you're working on a JPEG image, you don't have those same controls. And to illustrate that, I have this little PSD file. So PSD files are the same way.

They're not raw. They're treated like a JPEG image, where basically we have this temperature and tint adjustment over here, but we're not. We're not basically dialing in a specific Kelvin antenna. What we're doing is making columns compensation for it. So yes, it looks like we have control over it but in reality, it's not giving us full control, we're just adjusting over the existing image we're not changing the white balance of the image. Okay, so just remember that if you're in JPEG or in editing any other type of file and post production, you can adjust temperature and tint and it'll layer it over what's already there, but you better have shot it correctly in camera because you can't have specific control like you would a raw file.

Let's go ahead and move on to another image again, this image right here this was shot with a This was shot with actually the jail one lighting them up because we're outdoors, there's no light, we have a another light up on a stick that kind of creates a little backlight just to add a little bit extra light to the scene. We're balancing this around 3400 degrees Kelvin, if it were say around daylight, okay, if we left it on daylight, it would be really really orange and look kind of nasty, all these colors get blown out. And this is what happens if you don't adjust those colors. If you're shooting video by the way, you better be adjusting in camera because video is just Like a JPEG, you don't have that control later on. If we end up adjusting it to be too cool like around 2500 and all those colors, they go blue.

Okay, let's take a look at another one. So right around where I like it was around that 3400 range, or 3600 fine too. Again, there's kind of a variance where you can choose based on your style. This was an overcast day. So take a look at this. So overcast, we're at 5600 degrees Kelvin here.

Again, remember how these are all variations depending on where you are, depending on the time of day depending on the type of overcast, all the weather and all the will all the settings of your atmosphere are going to affect the color temperature. So this didn't fall into 6000. So 6000 was where we said it normally would be but for my preference, I preferred around three to 600 degrees. Again, this is where the live view comes in really handy because you can dial it in based on that live view. Now this is a perfect illustration right here of basically mixture in lighting. We talked about how daylight is basically more blue Inside light is more orange right, we showed you that little chart right here, take a look at this.

So daylight we have more blueish side and an indoor light, we have it more orange. So going back to this image, we have this mixture here and we're actually using it in the photo. To the right side, I have a GL one, which is this light right here that's balanced tungsten. On the left side, I have this nice little lamp and I have her kind of looking towards the lamps on the left and on the right, we're basically shaping her with this tungsten light and we're using the background and setting the white balance to basically allow the background this daylight coming through the back to go very blue. So what ends up happening to that is watch this when we adjust to basically make that indoor light more neutral. So if I were to make it more neutral by cooling it down, the background light which is already blue becomes more blue.

Okay, so this is where we can use white balance for creative effect. Again, this is getting into more lighting one on one lighting to one lighting three, one stuff that we're going to talk about in those workshops, but I want to give you a little taste of it because it's absolutely amazing what you can do with lighting. This situation right here, we're using actually two flashes, we're using two pocket strobes. And we're shooting it and bouncing daylight because this is a daylight scene. So we're bouncing to the light in the scene just to light up the cup a little bit. So we have this nice, beautiful light.

And if we look at the color temperature, we're right around 5800 degrees. So remember, daylight can vary to this is the sun's out, it's a blue sky, but for this image, I prefer 50 100 degrees rather than 50 550 500. This looks a little bit on the cold side, if you can see that 54 here's 35. Okay, so again, remember that there's a lot of stylistic preference here. Let's go back to let's see, let's check out this image. This image was shot indoors.

This is actually from lighting one on one, which is a DVD that we're filming right now be sure to check it out. And in this video in lighting one on one we're showing you essentially how to create amazing images with a single on camera flash. That means we never take the camera we never take the flash off the camera. This whole workshop is designed to help you to master on camera flash to show you just how much you can do with it. So this is awesome. Done with one single on camera flash.

But with this, we're leaving it daylight white balance because we have a little bit of daylight poking through underneath this garage. Okay, so again, if we look at the white balance over here, it's right around daylight even though we're indoors, all the light that we're using is daylight. So we're balancing to that light. Okay, let's go back here. And I want to show you one other image. I think I've shown you everything.

This one is, this was actually one of the photo one photographer one things that we did, I wanted to show this one particularly because the temperature even though she's standing in shade, we have a reflector on her and the correct white balance, really for me is around 50 to 100 degrees Kelvin. It can again change based on the type of lighting modifiers and everything you're using. So don't treat all the numbers that we gave you as kind of guides as a rule of thumb, don't treat them as concrete. Okay, now looking at this one, this is one that we're going to get into when we get into lighting to when we start taking the camera or the flash off the camera, start journaling it more. This is what we're going for. So in this shot What we're doing is we're actually using a GL one.

Okay? It's pin lighted right on the subject. And what we've done here is we've white balanced the scene to the couple. So the couple is nice, and they're a little bit warm, but it has a great look over their skin tones. And what happens is, again, remember, daylight is more blue, tungsten is more yellow. So if I pull everything down, if I pull the camera down to balance to that yellow light, then what's already blue becomes even more blue.

So if I bring this in and I kind of tweak the temperature a little bit, you'll see that as we go down in temperature, that background just shifts to be more and more blue. When we balance for the background will be balanced for the daylight, which is going to be around like say 5500. This is actually more around dusk, so it'll probably be even higher, it'll probably be like 6000 to 7000. You can see how orange the couple gets. So what we're doing here is we're mixing light for creative effect. So this is one of those instances where we're using how they can camera views and sees the scene to our advantage to create an image that looks pretty much unreal.

But it was done all in camera, you can actually see this is the raw file, we're working on the raw file right now. So this was all done in camera. And once I set my white balance to the couple, like right around 4000 degrees Kelvin, our background that gets sent in this deep blue. Again, be sure to check out those other workshops because we're gonna dive into this a lot more in those. It's kind of beyond the scope of what we're covering here, but I wanted to give you a little taste, a little taste test. Okay, so let's go on to my last and final tip, which is to remember that white balance, like everything in photography is a creative decision.

Yes, there is a white balance that's going to look not good. Okay, there's a white balance that's going to be in its essence kind of wrong. But there's also a lot of correct white balances. For example, for this image right here, I could pull this down. Let me hit J. So that clipping alert turns off.

I could pull the temperature down a little more if I want to go for a more neutral tone and it gets more blue. I can Pull it up a little more. If I want to go with more warmth over the couple and their skin tones, there's 1000 to 1500 degree leeway just depending on if I like it more cool if I like it more warm any one of these is kind of my artistic discretion. Same thing with these other images. Like for example, if we pull this down to be pure neutral, okay, so if I bring this down to say 2000 degrees Kelvin, that's where it's essentially neutral, that's where that yellow light becomes white. But it doesn't look very interesting to me at this point, I want to warm it up a little bit.

I want to keep some of that natural, warm ambience that it had when you look at the scene with just your eyes. And so I would adjust creatively to be a little bit warmer like say around 2400 degrees Kelvin. Same thing if I go to say another image let's take this image of our guy working out right here now if I want I can adjust this to be really on the cool side where we kind of go this cooler light, we get more blues and more grays and a skin tone and it kind of looks cool. It looks kind of editorial. It has this nice unique feel to it. Likewise I can adjust it up to 3600 5700 degrees Kelvin where we have more warmth and it has a Much more warm seen.

This is exactly what I mean by white balance, this choice is as much of a creative choice as choosing the appropriate shutter speed, choose for your motion and so forth choosing the appropriate aperture for your depth of field and desire and effect. It's just as big of a choice creatively, there is white balances that are going to look wrong. So if I take this up to say 16,000 Yes, this does not look good, but there's a great leeway in what is going to look right and that is where it is going to fall based on your plate to decide for your personal style and preferences. Lastly, before I conclude two minor quick tips, well if you're trying to get your temperature and post produce and try and do all those things in the computer, make sure that you first calibrate your display. Otherwise the colors that you're seeing are not going to be the correct colors.

You can use like an eye one device or spider Li pro we use both those are fantastic devices. Number two, two terms you're going to hear a lot when it comes to white balance is to cooled off or to warm it up. cooled off simply means to dial down the temperature. So There's going to be a cooler or more blue image warmer that means the dial up so becomes more yellow or more orange. Okay, so that's it for color temperature and white balance. hope y'all enjoy this video and I'll see you in the next one.

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