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Controlling flash color temperature

From: Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

Video: Controlling flash color temperature

We've been talking only about natural light shooting through most of this course, but there will be times in low light where you will want to use your flash. Now this is not a flash course, but if your camera has a pop-up flash, it does have some utility in low light, working as a fill to fill in some shadows and just cast a little bit of extra light onto your subject. There is problem though very often with fill flash in low light. Now we have already talked about how in low light everything is going to turn really red and really orange. Your camera is going to have a difficult time white balancing with the kind of lighting situations you get into at night and at low light.

Controlling flash color temperature

We've been talking only about natural light shooting through most of this course, but there will be times in low light where you will want to use your flash. Now this is not a flash course, but if your camera has a pop-up flash, it does have some utility in low light, working as a fill to fill in some shadows and just cast a little bit of extra light onto your subject. There is problem though very often with fill flash in low light. Now we have already talked about how in low light everything is going to turn really red and really orange. Your camera is going to have a difficult time white balancing with the kind of lighting situations you get into at night and at low light.

Watch what happens if I pop up the flash on my camera and take a shot of Janna here. I end up with a shot that is well exposed and the flash is working for me, but notice the difference between a color on her face and the color in the background. Now we talked about white balance. Every different type of light shines at a different color temperature, meaning it has a different color cast to it. And what we've got here is the flash has one color cast and those lights in the background have another, and so there is this difference between the lights that's on her face and the lights that's in the background.

It works okay exposure-wise, but it doesn't look that natural. It really looks like a flash picture. It would be nice if the flash were the same color as the background. It's possible to do that using a gel, a little piece of cellophane-like material of a particular color. Gels come in a lot of different colors. This is color temperature orange, or CTO, and you can get these in different thicknesses which create more or less of a gelling effect. So what I am going to do here is take this and cut this down and just tape it over the front of the flash.

That's going to change the color temperature of the flash to match the color temperature of the background, and it should give me a better overall exposure. You can get these from camera stores. You can get these off of Amazon. There are a lot of places that you can buy gels. So I am going to take a minute to affix this to my flash now. So using some gaffer's tape, we've got the CTO gel just stuck over the front of the flash. All that matters is that it covers where the light's coming out. We don't want to cover too much of it with the tape. But that's going to color the light as it comes out of the flash.

I am not going to take the same shot that I took before. And that gives us a balanced lighting situation between our flash and the background. As you can see, it's much closer to the temperature of the light that we've got back there. I don't have that blue cast on her that I had before. So this is a simple way to balance out your flash with other background lighting. This is not something that you're only going to do in extremely low light like this.

Sunsets are to be the same situation. Anytime where the difference in color between flash and the background is really noticeable, a simple CTO gel over the flash is a really easy fix.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light
Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

55 video lessons · 36592 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 2m 27s
    1. Welcome
      2m 27s
  2. 6m 20s
    1. What can you shoot in low light?
      2m 17s
    2. What you need for this course
      4m 3s
  3. 28m 54s
    1. Working with exposure parameters in low light
      1m 13s
    2. Working with image sensors in low light
      4m 35s
    3. Working with shutter speed in low light
      3m 3s
    4. Considering motion blur
      1m 14s
    5. Working with ISO in low light
      2m 29s
    6. Assessing your camera's high ISO capability
      4m 52s
    7. Working with in-camera noise reduction
      2m 4s
    8. Working with aperture in low light
      2m 10s
    9. Understanding dynamic range
      2m 2s
    10. Working with color temperature and white balance
      1m 11s
    11. Exposing to the right
      4m 1s
  4. 34m 39s
    1. Introduction
      1m 36s
    2. Talking with Steve Simon about low-light photography
      13m 46s
    3. Shooting by candlelight
      1m 55s
    4. Choosing a mode
      4m 34s
    5. Exploring the role of lens stabilization
      3m 1s
    6. White balance considerations
      3m 27s
    7. Flash considerations
      1m 18s
    8. Problem solving
      1m 35s
    9. Understanding aesthetics and composition
      3m 27s
  5. 30m 4s
    1. Introduction
      2m 20s
    2. Preparing for the shoot
      5m 25s
    3. Act I: adjusting to the light
      3m 48s
    4. Intermission: reviewing the strategy
      1m 53s
    5. Act II: moving to the back of the house
      2m 35s
    6. After the show: lessons learned
      1m 18s
    7. Reviewing the performance images
      12m 45s
  6. 19m 18s
    1. Shooting in the shade
      2m 55s
    2. Street shooting
      2m 52s
    3. Shooting flash portraits at night
      4m 5s
    4. Controlling flash color temperature
      2m 50s
    5. Adjusting exposure to preserve the mood
      2m 34s
    6. Dynamic range considerations
      4m 2s
  7. 41m 0s
    1. Shooting lingering sunsets
      1m 42s
    2. Exploring focusing strategies
      5m 17s
    3. Composing and focusing at night
      10m 42s
    4. Shooting the stars
      9m 27s
    5. Practicing low-light landscape shooting
      9m 55s
    6. Focusing on the horizon in low light
      3m 57s
  8. 13m 4s
    1. Light painting: behind the camera
      7m 34s
    2. Light painting: in front of the camera
      2m 13s
    3. Manipulating long shutter speeds
      3m 17s
  9. 1h 4m
    1. Correcting white balance
      8m 49s
    2. Correcting white balance with a gray card
      3m 50s
    3. Correcting white balance of JPEG images
      2m 0s
    4. Blending exposures with different white balances
      7m 13s
    5. Brightening shadows
      9m 8s
    6. Reducing noise
      7m 44s
    7. Sharpening
      9m 14s
    8. Correcting depth-of-field issues
      9m 32s
    9. Correcting night skies
      6m 39s
  10. 53s
    1. Goodbye
      53s

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