Kelvin Color Temperature & White Balance Explained | Color Temperature for Photography, Video & Film

There are many confusing terms in
photography, video and film production and color temperature is definitely up
there with the best of them. It is, however, a critically important subject
to understand if you want to master your craft. It is vital to understand the ways
in which color temperature affects our shots. Not only does it play a part in
how white surfaces in our scenes are recorded, but it is also pivotal in the
overall balance between every color of every surface in the scene. Usually we
want objects that appear white in reality to also appear white in our
recorded images and when white is balanced correctly all the other colors
will be balanced correctly, to. Hang on to the end of this video because I’m
going to explain in detail what Color Temperature is and how it affects the
images that you shoot. Hi, I’m Jim Costa. I’m a videography, photography and
technology guru, but you can call me a #dadographer. I’ve created many other videos
on improving your photography, videography, filmmaking, video editing,
audio recording and technology skills, and even others on using gels in your
productions that relate to this topic, and I’ll link to those in the
description below and both during and at the end of this video as well, so stay
tuned. If you want to learn more, remember to subscribe to my channel and hit that
bell to be notified when I upload new videos. I upload every week and I’ll be
uploading many more explanations of film, video, photo, editing and tech topics. Stay
tuned to the end to find out how to get my F-R-E-E DSLR, mirrorless or inter-changeable lens video camera cheat sheet that’ll have you shooting your photos
and videos like a pro in no time. Best of all, my cheat sheet specializes
in shooting video with any type of camera including mirrorless & DSLR
cameras. In it you’ll find all the info you need an important video topics such
as white balance, color temperature, frame rates and more. I am a full-time working
photographer, video producer, editor and technology pro. That’s the small business
that I own and it’s how I make a living. You’ll find my contact info in the
description below. Contact me if you need photography or video production for
you personally or for your business. A white surface appears white because your
brain tells you that in his white. However, it may actually be reflecting the blue
light of an overcast day or the deep orange of the sun just before it
disappears below the horizon. The reason that we see it as white is what’s known
as Color Temperature. So what does Color Temperature mean? The technical
definition of Color Temperature is full of terms like “black body radiator”
and “chromacity space.” In short, it’s very confusing. it’s very boring and
above all, leaves you feeling even more baffled than before since these terms
don’t mean anything to a beginner. In laymen’s terms-, different light sources
produce different colors of light. For example, a candle emits a reddish light
while the midday sun’s rays have a blue tint. These different colors can be
expressed using a number. The number is known as the Color Temperature of the
light. While our eyes and brains adjust continually to changing light conditions,
a camera will not. You have to tell your camera what color light is illuminating
your scene and it needs to be adjusted every time the light changes, like when
you go from inside to outside. This is your White Balance or Color Temperature
setting and if you’re shooting anything other than RAW, this setting permanently
determines the color balance of your recorded images. Color Temperature is
measured on the Kelvin scale which is denoted by the letter “K” or the word
“Kelvin” after the number. What’s important is the number itself. To understand that,
you have to learn a little bit about the physics of color so I’m going to give
you a high school physics lesson now. Visible light is a form of
electromagnetic radiation with a frequency (or wavelength) that determines
its color. The frequency of light in the visible spectrum, what we can see is,
between 390 nanometers and 700 nanometers. A nanometer is a billionth of
a meter so it’s very very tiny. A red painted surface will absorb all
wavelengths of light except the color red. Red light is reflected and our eyes
detect the light which is reflected and our brains register that object as
being red. A white surface however, is not selective. It reflects the full spectrum
of wavelengths of any light falling on it equally. So what is a white light? White
light contains an equal mix of wavelengths (or colors) of the full
visible spectrum. This is why white light can’t be split by a prism into the
different wavelengths it contains. White light is an equal mix of every color.
It’s important to understand that every light source we encounter actually does
have a color. It emits and uneven mix of wavelengths and therefore white in our
scenes is termed by the color of light illuminating out
scene. Where white reflects all wavelengths of light, black is any object which fully
absorbs all frequencies of light. You’re probably wondering how all this
affects you and your images. Well, the human eye is excellent at adjusting to
different Color Temperatures, which means that to you and me, objects appear
roughly the same color whether they’re outside in the sun or indoors under a
light bulb. Why? Because our brains are very smart and our eyes are very
sophisticated organs that can automatically switch from one light
source to another and everything will always look the same color more or less,
even if we’re in almost total darkness or outside and the brightest sunniest
day. However, DSLR, mirrors and video cameras are dumb. They aren’t as good as
adapting to changing lighting conditions as we are and as a result, they see
objects as being different colors depending upon the light that’s falling
on them. This can lead to our photos and videos having some sort of color cast.
That is, an overall blue or orange tint which makes the shot appear unnatural
and unpleasing. You’ve probably seen this if you’ve been shooting inside and
you turn your camera on you’re shooting & everything looks normal but without
turning your camera off you go outside and shoot something all of a sudden it
all looks blue. Why is that? That’s because the white balance of your camera
which automatically set itself most likely when you turned it on, set itself
for whatever light was inside that you were shooting in and it doesn’t know that
you went outside. Outside sunlight, believe it or not, is blue even though our
brains see things the way they’re supposed to be, so the camera doesn’t
know that. So all it’s seeing is this weird blue light shining and so it makes
everything in your image look blue, even though it’s really technically not.
Cameras allow you to correct with these color casts by telling them the Color
Temperature of your scene. This is done using the White Balance setting. Simply
tell a camera what type of lighting your scene has, such as daylight, shade,
tungsten, etc. and it will automatically change the appropriate Color Temperature
internally. For even more accurate control, some advanced cameras allow you
to program in the exact Color Temperature in degrees Kelvin. You can
get a precise value using a Color Temperature Meter or by taking a photo
or video of a white object under the same lighting and letting the camera
calculate the temperature itself. Which is why many people will zoom in on a,
like a white t-shirt or a piece of paper in a room under the lighting that you’re
going to shoot under, turn the camera off and on. The camera will automatically
measure the white balance. Then you zoom out & everything is exposed right. It’s
a very easy way to fix it if you don’t understand the menu settings on your
camera’s on how to do that. Alternatively, if your camera allows you to
change it, you can make an educated guess using a chart just like the one I’m
showing here. You can find these online. This is known as a Color Temperature
Chart. The following chart shows rough color temperature values for a range of
different conditions. The bar is colored to show the hue and strength of any color
cast that might appear in your shot in different lighting conditions. Notice
that on a bright sunny clear sky day, the light is very blue in color while the
midday sun is almost pure white. The sunrise and sunset is a golden color of
light known as the “Golden Hour” to photographers because the lighting makes
for beautiful images on skin tones. Candles are very orange color and so
forth as you go down the list. The easiest way to make sure your White
Balance is correct is simply to be aware of the light sources illuminating your
scene. The two common standard Color Temperatures for film and video lighting
that are the most often use are Daylight, which is 5600 Kelvin, and Tungsten which
is 3200 Kelvin. Knowing those two numbers will go a long way to making sure your
image is balanced for your light source within the ability to make finer
corrections in post. Keeping some other values from the table that I list here
in mind will also go a long way. For instance, if it’s overcast and you’re
shooting outside you may want to set your camera closer to 6500 K because
that’s the Color Temperature of light on a cloudy overcast day. Mixed light
sources can often cause problems and unless you
are intentionally lighting with mixed sources for creative purposes, it’s well
worth keeping a single color light source in mind when planning ahead. A
location recon ahead of time goes a long way to determining how an area is lit
during the day, at night and what “Practical Light” sources are present that
you don’t have a control over like street lights and will also give you an
idea of what lighting instruments you’ll need to light your scene. By
understanding Color Temperature you will always be ready to balance your camera,
even in situations where you have absolutely no control over the lighting
at all. Correctly setting your Color Temperature in camera is easy. It’s
definitely not something you want to fix in post if you shoot it wrong because the
color will never be quite right, so always attempt to get the color
temperature right when shooting and avoid the headaches that in correctly
balanced images can cause later on when you have to edit. Color Temperature can
seem like a tricky concept to learn but once you get used to it, you’ll find it
becomes second nature. If all this is making sense to you put, “I’ve got it!” in
the comments section below. My question of the day is, “Have you ever
experienced color temperature issues when shooting and how did you fix the
problem?” Leave a comment below and let us know. Would you like to learn more about
your camera settings to get you shooting like a pro? I’ve created an absolutely
F-R-E-E cheat sheet for you on all the best camera settings to shoot video with
your DSLR, mirrorless or video cameras that’ll show you the settings that will allow
your photos and your videos to shine and stand out from the competition. The link
to get that cheat sheet is just below in the video description. I’ve also created
other cheat sheets on other topics such as video editing and now even offer
training courses on editing video using Adobe Premiere Pro and soon I’ll have
others. I’ll link to those and cheat sheets and training courses below as
well. Learning to edit like a pro is easy with the course that I’ve created. Do you
want to see more videos like this? Follow my YouTube channel, Jim Costa Films, for more.
Do you think what you saw was great? Like it. Have an opinion? Comment below.
Know someone who could benefit from the info I provided? Please share the video.
Do you want to learn even more? If so, then connect with Jim Costa Films
on social media and online Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the web. I
currently have over 4300 videos on my YouTube channel, Jim Costa Films, so feel
free to check out many of my other videos for great tips and suggestions. If
you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I have a community of photographers,
videographers and filmmakers, just like you, on Facebook where I share other pro
tips and tricks. The group is called Video Producers and Content Creators.
I love new members who want to share their work, learn from others and also
help others because of your own experience. You’ll find a link to that
group in the description below so feel free to join it where you’ll learn even

9 Replies to “Kelvin Color Temperature & White Balance Explained | Color Temperature for Photography, Video & Film”

  1. Love Editing? Want to get started using Adobe Premiere Pro CC but not certain how? I'm here to help. I've been a professional video producer and editor for over 3 decades & I've created a F-R-E-E shortcut guide for Premiere Pro listing hundreds of Keyboard, Panel & Application shortcuts. Click below to get your free copy!

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    Get your F-R-E-E DSLR & Mirrorless Camera Video Cheat Sheet here:

    Want to see more videos like this? Follow my YouTube channel, Jim Costa Films, for more! Think what you saw was great? Like it! Have an opinion? Comment below! Know someone who could benefit from the info I provided? Share the video. Do you want to learn even more? Connect with Jim Costa Films on social media and online!


    For more information on my video services, check out my website: Are you looking for help creating video for your business? Do you need a commercial for television, social media or radio? How about a corporate video for your web site or for training? I can help! I specialize in creating video and audio content for businesses and individuals! Contact Jim Costa Films for a consultation. Follow, Like, Subscribe & Connect for more video content, tips and tricks for using technology and the information you need to take your photos and videos and your business to the next level.

  2. I'm happy to hear you found the info useful. If you have any questions, please let me know. I'm happy to answer them. I just sent you your DSLR & Mirrorless Camera Video Cheat Sheet as well!

  3. I appreciate you tuning in! If you have any photo, video or film related questions I can answer to help you with your vlog, let me know. I'm happy to answer them.

  4. Wow- really cool! I feel we should all be more aware of this info being how dependent many of us are on pictures for business. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Jim!

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