Understanding Light

One of the trickiest aspects of photography is lighting. Balancing natural light sources with artificial ones can be a real challenge for beginner shutterbugs, especially if they rely on their bare eyes to white balance.

Regardless of how fancy your camera, there’s no replicating the human eye when it comes to color conversion. Subtle shifts in color go largely unnoticed by cameras, especially in low-light situations. You can see this quite clearly if you snap a few photos in a dimly lit room. Whereas a camera may see the dim artificial light as white, our eyes may read it as red. Likewise, if you are trying to snap a photo outside using the sun as your light source, your eye will likely balance to white, while your camera will take a photo that paints the scene in a bluish hue.

Having some basic knowledge of color temperature or the Kelvin scale will serve you well if you are looking to take professional-looking pictures. The main reason is that color connotes different kinds of emotion. For example, blue tends to trigger a cold feeling, while red and yellow translate into a feeling of hope. An advanced photographer knows how his camera will read different types of light and can adjust accordingly. In most cases, color challenges can be fixed by turning on your camera’s white balance feature. By controlling this feature you can manipulate light and make it work for you.

When in doubt consult your camera’s manual. There should be directives regarding the white balance feature. For example, in most cases the auto white balance will attempt to white balance any shot regardless of the light sources, meanwhile the daylight feature is designed to add a hint of blue to your shot, and the cloudy symbol adds some red or yellow to warm up a shot taken in low-light situations.

Related Articles:

Basic Photo Tips for Digital Camera Owners

Cameras: Knowing When To Upgrade

Telling A Story With Your Shots

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.