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We all know that beautiful use of color can make or break a photograph. In the next few movies we will take a look at how to do that. Let's start by talking about the color of light and white balance. Simply put, this means that the whites in your photographs are white. They don't have a colorcast of blue or orange or green. Your eye naturally ignores these color shifts, but not your camera; you have to tell it what is white. The color of light changes all the time. The time of day makes a big difference, but also the time of year, weather conditions, and smog levels.
The Kelvin scale measures the temperature of light. The lower the number, say around 2400, the warmer the light; the higher the colder the light. To show this, Luke Deming shot this nifty series of well over a thousand images taken from 6:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. All of the photographs were taken at 5500 Kelvin, which is considered the temperature of light at high noon in July. Watch how the white surfboard, water, and sand, all change color, and check out the shadows too.
The sky has a beautiful shade of blue/purple right before sunrise. The surfboard has a magenta cast and the shadows are soft. This is a great time to photograph. The surfboard is in shadow when the sun first comes up, but look at the warm colorcast of the sand and the waves, and watch how the board becomes whiter as the morning progresses. Around noon, the shadows are short. The sand and board are at their most neutral tone. As we move into late afternoon, the board is now backlit, but you can see how the sand has started to warm up again. And as the sun sets over the Pacific, the sand and waves are golden. The shadow is long.
Photographers call the hour around sunrise and sunset the golden hour, and for good reason. It's a dramatic time to photograph. Don't only shoot the sunset, but remember to turn around and photograph the scene that is bathed in that beautiful warm light. Stay around after sunset too. You will often have that amazing warm glow lingering for another half hour or so, especially if there are any clouds in the sky. So what if you're shooting indoors? You have got to be aware of the color of light inside too.
We'll explore that in the next movie.
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