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Dash of Inspiration – November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

The Color of Light

Okay, last week in Part 1 of this mini-series, I provided tools and tutorials to better understand the importance of exposing Highlights and Shadows; this week is Part 2:  The Color of Light.

When studying photography, another critical aspect is light temperature. The Kelvin Scale is how the color of light is measured and you’ll notice that  each light source is associated with a color of which the camera picks up in the form of a color cast on the finished image.  Photography is considered a Realist Medium in the arts, and realism is the intent to achieve a truthful representation of reality in its historical context.  This is the reason why the color of light plays such an important role in photography.

The average person can look at a painting and because they know it was created from the imagination, a pink zebra is not only perfectly acceptable, its adorable. However, that same eye looking at a photograph of a zebra with a pink tint in the whites and purple in the blacks is considered unacceptable.  Why?  Because our minds tell us this is not a truthful representation of realty. This is another area where photographs taken by an amateur will stand out from those of the professional photographer.  A photographer must pay close attention to the color cast of the light, whether natural or artificial, which will render on their final image.

In the past, photographers corrected for color cast by carrying a supply of Color Correction filters in the camera bag to remove the magenta tint when shooting under fluorescent lights, the yellowish-orange casts from tungsten lighting and the too cool blue and cyan tints from deep shade and winter lighting.  What could not be done using filters on the camera, was then corrected by using filters in the enlarger when the prints were made.**

Snow for example, should not be pink (in photographic terms Magenta), and blue in a snow scene should only be there when the image provides the viewer with some indication that the image was shot in the evening hours such as lights in the window of a building.  Color cast issues are considered technical flaws in photography, and your photos will be rejected by galleries, licensing agencies and places like GCU where there is a level of professionalism required in your submissions.

Here is a link to an example of what I’m talking about with snow (the before and after)– due to the color of the light when it’s snowing, it is likely that without proper adjustments and/or corrections, your photographs will have a blue/cyan color cast.

Today’s photographers have MANY more options when setting the camera up for a photo shoot, in addition to after-processing techniques to get the color right.  Many digital SLR’s, such as my Canon 7D have a White Balance setting in addition to light temperature settings, but even those which are not considered Pro-level cameras have symbols for shade, sunlight, tungsten and so on.  These are will auto-correct for the color cast as a filter on the camera would do.

Color balance corrections can also be made using a variety of methods in programs like Photoshop.  The important factor is that the photographer trains their eye to recognize the proper color of light for a given subject and learns to correct it before passing the images on to their clients.  An unappealing color cast is not art, it’s poor technique.

Next week we’ll take on the the final ‘chapter’ in this mini-series and talk about Creative Tinting: When and How to Apply It.

Here are some great links to learn more about this subject from how to set up your camera properly for a shot to after-processing techniques in Photoshop, Elements, Paintshop Pro and GIMP.

Digital Focus: All About Color Balance

Understanding White Balance

Understanding white balance settings on a digital camera

Neutralizing Color Casts With The Photo Filter in Photoshop

Eliminating Color Cast With Paint Shop Pro

White Balance with GIMP

Fixing Overall Tonal and Color Problems in Photoshop Elements

**Note:  It’s also important to note for those out there who are scanning film-based images and for the artist who scans their paintings; color casts are common in scanning and you need to do a lot of testing and adjustments to create a profile for your scanned images that automatically corrects for a natural shift to magenta and/or cyan.



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