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Tips & Tricks

The Color of Light | Corrective Color Balance

By Shivani Reddy on May 20th 2016

Lighting can be a daunting idea. It has the ability to strike fear in those that do not truly understand its power, and being able to control light and manipulate it to work for you can change how you see the world as an artist.

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The road to interpreting light starts by understanding its attributes: quality, color, direction, and luminosity. Of these factors, color is almost always determined by outside variables, and we are here to illustrate exactly how you can modify and regulate it to work to your advantage.

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Awareness of Light

We are naturally aware when light is bright or dark, but we’re not always aware of the color. Take sunlight for example – at dawn, we see hints of blue, white during mid-day, and orange during sunset. The camera is more sensitive to colors than our eyes are, therefore, understanding the color of light in your scene and knowing what action to take to manipulate and control it, will make a difference in the quality of your work. The two most common colors of light you will come across while shooting indoors are Tungsten (orange) and Daylight (blue).

Corrective Color Balance

Whether you are balancing for creative reasons or corrective, it is always best practice to shoot in RAW to preserve as much information as possible. Correcting your white balance in-camera to preserve skin tones allows for more efficiency when it comes to post-producing your images and is as close as it gets to depicting the available color in the scene.


If you choose to adjust your Kelvin temperature in-camera to artistically alter the scene, like in this scene where the temperature is set at 2800K, then be aware that you need to add light to color correct your subject’s skin tone.

How do you Color Correct?

You are doing yourself a favor by correcting the color in your scene either by controlling the light, setting your camera’s white balance, or doing both. Under your camera’s White Balance settings, select the Kelvin temperature scale option. The higher the number, the warmer the tone of the image.

Controlling the Color of Light

Try your best to avoid mixed lighting by assessing your scene and seeing if there are any lights you can turn off to prevent the combination of tungsten and daylight. In an indoor scene, your goal is to find the kelvin temperature that is a neutral white point.

If you instead chose to leave the tungsten lights on, to depict how the scene looked in its natural state, then add in a flash with a CTO Gel (color temperature orange) to match the color of lights. Balancing mixed light can be a tricky task but can be fixed thanks to Lightroom’s RAW processing capabilities.

[REWIND: How To Balance Mixed Light | Advanced Lightroom Processing ]

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Understanding and being aware of the color of light in your scene can transform not only your approach but your artistic vision. For an in-depth understanding of white balance and more lighting concepts check out our Lighting 101 Workshop. In Lighting 101 we take you on a journey from basic light theory all the way to step-by-step instructions on application from real shoots!

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Olivier Borgognon

    great tips once again, thanks for those articles. I am messing around with colour correction even though i’m a full time working photographer, but sometimes really find it tricky, i’m getting there and it’s an interesting path.

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    • Shivani Reddy

      Fiddling around with settings while shooting, like we suggested using Live mode, or even in post-production can help you progress quickly in understanding these concepts! Happy shooting :)

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  2. Christian Boecker

    Two weaks ago, I photographed my first wedding for this year and it was really difficult. It was a small room with bright windows and a big tungsten chandelier which they didn’t turn off. The walls were not white but in a kind of muddy color.
    But thanks to you guys and all your tips and tricks, I did it with the confidence, I will get good results. Thanks a lot and keep up your good, helpful and inspiring work!

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Thank you for the kind words, and we’re happy to be able to help with this, or anything else you may want to learn more about. Cheers

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  3. Paul Wynn

    Since joining the SLR Lounge community, I’ve found the posts and videos on colour correction really helpful. Adjusting colour temperatures in camera and using correcting gels, ultimately improve the colour of images and greatly help to reduce processing times on the computer. Thanks.

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    • Shivani Reddy

      That is so nice to hear Paul! It’s awesome how simply gelling and controlling the color of your light can save you loads of time in post-production! So glad to see that you are enjoying our content!

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Paul, really glad to hear that, and thank you for your consistent feedback. This is one of those topics that once clarified can shift the entire scope of someone’s imagery – lighting on a whole is like that in fact, full of little pieces of ‘ah-ha’ information. Whatever else you’re looking to learn or clarify, don’t hesitate to let us know here, of somewhere like the SLRL Facebook Community, and we’ll see what we can do to help.

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