Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Color Temperature, Balancing for Different Light Sources

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Digital Photo Academy and LivinginHD present a free monthly series of photography webinars on LivinginHD.com. Your host, John Bentham answers many questions live during the webinars. On January 11, 2011 DPA and LiHD presented a Webinar on Color Calibration co-hosted by Josh Fischer, the Sales and Education Manager at Datacolor, Spyder (datacolor.com). Josh demystified color calibration and tackled the technical questions specific to Spyder products. As John is keen to point out, Josh kept him out of trouble with regard to color calibration. Additional questions, answers and tips are posted here on digitalphotoacademy.com where you can also view the archived webinars.

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Photo by Russ Burden, DPA instructor Denver

Color temperature in degrees Kelvin. The Kelvin scale measures color temperature in wavelength of light, much like Fahrenheit or Celsius measure temperature. We typically associate heat (warmth) with high temperatures. Thus the Kelvin scale is somewhat counter intuitive to F or C in that the higher the temperature in Kelvin the cooler the color appears.

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Photos by Russ Burden, DPA instructor Denver showing the effects different White Balance settings would produce.

Your digital camera, either a Point and Shoot or DSLR has Color Correction (White Balance Settings) built into the camera’s processing system. By selecting the correct White Balance for the specific light source, you are on your way to getting better color balance in your photographs. Most cameras come from the manufacturer set to a default white balance of AWB (Auto White Balance). This does a pretty good job of rendering color in many situations. When you run into difficulties you will get better results if you take the camera off Auto White Balance and choose a specific white balance seeing for each shooting situation.

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The image above shows the White Balance menu on the display of a Panasonic GF1. By toggling the White Balance up or down the photographer can choose between a number of white balance options and pre-set WB filters.

As outlined in the Light Source Color Temperature list below White Balance settings will vary depending on the manufacturer and specific model of your camera. Many of the settings are similar, if not identical but may have different names.

A WB setting of Tungsten (named so because of the tungsten filament in the bulb itself), will in some cameras be referred to as Incandescent or Halogen. They are basically the same setting. Many cameras have multiple setting for Fluorescent bulbs as many different types of FL tubes are manufactured to produce many different color temperatures. Often cameras will have multiple settings for Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2 etc. You need to determine through trial and error which FL setting is best for the particular lights you are shooting under. Daylight is sometimes referred to as Sunlight or a Good Weather setting.

The image below shows the various White Balance settings available on a Panasonic GF1. Notice the two settings White Set 1 and White Set 2. These are custom pre-set settings which enable you to record a custom corrected white balance to specific lighting conditions if the standard WB filters don’t give you a corrected color. The Color Temperature allows you to manually dial up or down the actual color temperature for a very accurate adjustment of color.

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Light Source: Color temperature in degrees Kelvin

Cooler Colors (Blue)
Skylight (blue sky)    12,000 – 20,000
Average summer shade    8000
Light summer shade    7100
Typical summer light (sun + sky)    6500
Daylight fluorescent  6300
Xenon short-arc    6400
Overcast sky    6000
Clear mercury lamp    5900
Sunlight (noon, summer, mid-latitudes)    5400
Design white fluorescent    5200
Daylight photoflood    4800 – 5000
Sunlight (early morning and late afternoon)    4300
Brite White Deluxe Mercury lamp    4000
Sunlight (1 hour after dawn)    3500
Cool white fluorescent  3400
Photoflood    3400
Professional tungsten photographic lights    3200
100-watt tungsten halogen    3000
Deluxe Warm White fluorescent    2950
100-watt incandescent    2870
40-watt incandescent    2500
High-pressure sodium light    2100
Sunlight (sunrise or sunset)    2000
Candle flame    1850 – 1900
Match flame    1700
Warmer Colors (Red)

Color temperature in RAW format: For additional information see Russ Burden’s (DPA Denver) tip on color temperature when shooting in RAW format: http://www.digitalphotoacademy.com/Home/UserArticleCategories/UserArticles/details/params/object/6465/default.aspx

Camera Charts: The chart below shows the camera menu Icons for Panasonic cameras. Other manufacturers Icon Charts are available for free download on DPA. These can be helpful in determining what specific icons represent on your specific camera.

Download these here: http://www.digitalphotoacademy.com/Home/Articles/Details/params/object/4478/menu/99/default.aspx

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Webinar Submission Specs:
All DPA students can submit photographs for inclusion in the Digital Photo Academy, LiHD Webinar, Online Photo Class Series. If you would like to submit your photographs for an upcoming webinar, read the following. Each webinar has a specific theme or topic. You can see the date and topic of the next webinar at LivinginHD.com, Tip of the Day, Online Photo Class. Note that webinars are edited and formatted days in advance, thus please submit your photos at least a week in advance of the webinar, late submissions can not be added. Photographs are chosen, and edited, for their applicability to the webinar theme, artistic and technical merit, and content length. If your photograph is NOT chosen, it will be archived and may appear in a more appropriate future webinar.

Submit your photographs to info@digitalphotoacademy.com

By submitting your photographs for consideration, you grant and authorize, The Digital Photo Academy, LivinginHD.com and Panasonic, the following rights: The right to use your photographs in the content and promotion of the webinar series, and for use on each company’s respective website. You further authorize your photographs may be archived online and/or in a database, and allow unrestricted internet availability of any webinars containing your photographs. You further authorize the use of your photographs in any future webinars. By voluntarily submitting your photographs for consideration you agree to the aforementioned without any legal claims, or claims for remuneration, whatsoever. You, as the photographer, retain the copyright © of any submitted photographs. The aforementioned companies will make best possible efforts to apply proper photo credit and acknowledgement with your photograph whenever possible and practical.


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