CONSIDERING LIGHT
Its Quality & Direction, 2

by Flo Deems

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Light (Color) Temperature

One more factor to consider is the color of the light on the subject. Most people think that light is always white. But if they use a camera, they soon discover that at various times of the day, under various weather conditions, or scenes and rooms lit by artificial lights of different types, light truly has a color cast. We use a scale called Degrees Kelvin to measure the "color temperature" of the predominant light source of a scene. For a much fuller explanation, please consult 3dRender.com's page.

Example: During the summer, the green leaves of the Japanese maple trees in the food courtyard at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, near where I live, act as a huge green filter. So any image shot there will have an overall greenish cast, which has to be corrected in post processing. If not corrected, the skin tones of people look sick. The brighter the sun shines, the more noticeable is this color cast.

To correct this greenish cast, one can use a magenta filter over the lens--which I have yet to try. I have a whole booklet of filter samples which will go nicely in front of a 52mm lens--I have yet to remember to try using them.

But in the fall these leaves turn a lovely red. So then the color of the light changes. Warm light does look much better on flesh than green light. If the sun is bright, then under these red leaves, people's skin will have too red a cast, light they are sunburned.

The color of the light falling on any scene could be blue (open sky, or in the courtyard above--in winter with no leaves on the trees), green (leaves), orange (early or late sunlight or autumn foliage), and so on. Sometimes changing the camera's white balance will help, or one can try filters, or wait to correct the light temperature/color cast in post processing.

In addition to how light from the sun/sky is modified, we must also be aware of its light reflected from different colored objects. For instance, if light from the sun/sky at one temperature falls on a red object, the light reflected from that object will have a red cast. A person who is wearing a white shirt photographed standing so that light from the red object is reflected onto his white shirt, will appear in the photo to have a pink shirt instead of a white one. We might not notice this with our eyes, but the camera's sensor will pick up reflected color casts in the scene.

I've found that the Auto WB (white balance) in Adobe's Camera Raw usually does a very good job of correcting an over-all color cast. Nikon's Capture NX has a neutral color point tool which is much easier to use than PS's tool for correcting an over-all color cast. If a color cast appears only locally within the scene, this also can be corrected using either Photoshop or Capture NX.

If you are shooting indoors under artificial lights, make several test shots, each with a different white balance, to see which one will produce the most pleasing colors in the scene. Then make further corrections in post processing. To save post processing time, it's best to "get it right" in the camera first.

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Back to Quality & Direction

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A Perfect World Image

Light: Quality & Direction

How We "Read" Images

How I Broke Out of the Box

A Few Examples of Breaking the Rules.

Using Props To Break the Ice

Great Photography Magazines

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