Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light
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Understanding the color cast of light


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Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light

with Erin Manning

Video: Understanding the color cast of light

Looking at the world through your naked eye you'd probably never notice it, but light varies in color depending on the light source, the time of day, the weather and a lot of other factors. The human eye automatically compensates for these variations in color and our eyes adjust to always see light as a neutral white. Unfortunately, camera sensors are not as advanced as the human visual system, so your digital camera may produce images with a color cast. There are many sources of light and each source has its own color temperature measured in degrees Kelvin designated by K.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light
41m 2s Beginner Jun 12, 2013

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In this course, photographer and educator Erin Manning shows beginning photographers how to appreciate and work with natural light. First Erin takes a look at the qualities of light, from softness to direction to color, and details the camera settings that help you get the most out of the scene's available light. Then Erin works together with a student to shoot a natural-light portrait, employing inexpensive accessories such as reflectors along the way.

Topics include:
  • Learning to identify the quality of light
  • Avoiding color casts
  • Setting exposure, white balance, and ISO
  • Finding good natural light
  • Reflecting and diffusing light
  • Understanding lighting ratios
Subject:
Photography
Author:
Erin Manning

Understanding the color cast of light

Looking at the world through your naked eye you'd probably never notice it, but light varies in color depending on the light source, the time of day, the weather and a lot of other factors. The human eye automatically compensates for these variations in color and our eyes adjust to always see light as a neutral white. Unfortunately, camera sensors are not as advanced as the human visual system, so your digital camera may produce images with a color cast. There are many sources of light and each source has its own color temperature measured in degrees Kelvin designated by K.

Just in case you're ever asked this question on a quiz show, the Kelvin scale is named after a British scientist, Lord Kelvin, the father of thermodynamics. He discovered that different light sources emit different colors, and he assigned a temperature measured in degrees Kelvin. For instance, color temperatures over 5000 K are called cool colors, and they're kind of a bluish-white. While lower color temperatures, 2700 to 3000 K, are called warm colors, and they're yellowish white through red.

This color temperature explains why photos taken inside your home may have a golden cast. And images taken at a office using traditional fluorescent lightning have a greenish cast. And pictures taken outside in the shade might look a little bit blue. And mixable light sources can result in a funny looking photograph. Unless that's your creative intent. Fortunately digital cameras have a white balance setting, this control is used to compensate for any difference in color temperature. And allows the cameras sensor to record the images as you see them with your eyes.

Some color casts can be beautiful and evoke a mood such as the warm glow of a sun set, or they can negatively effect the aesthetic quality of your image. Such as a pink or green glow from indoor sporting events. It all depends upon your creative vision.

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