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Understanding Light

Lesson 17 of 34

Balancing Color Temperatures

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

17. Balancing Color Temperatures

Lesson Info

Balancing Color Temperatures

Flash and color temperature. So we have some issues here. This, these lights, are 3,200 Kelvin. This flash is about 5,500 Kelvin. And so we were getting away with having off color temperatures because it looks good when those are nice and warm. But what if we tried to get this to work where these were white and this was white light. Let's try it. So, Lex is gonna come out here. And for this, what we need to do is we're gonna have to turn off all of our studio lights. And so I'm gonna be working in darkness here for a little bit, because we don't wanna have a color cast coming in, 'cause our studio lights are daylight balanced just like our flash. So if we can kill some of these lights here in a second. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna have you back up just a little bit. (shuffling) (rattling) And perfect. Actually, come forward just a hair. Good, good, good. Just like that is good. Alright, and we have the kit. Good, perfect. So, John is standing by with the gel. So, what I'm goin...

g to do is I'm going to set my white balance, and I'm going to set my white balance to flash. Okay, white balance is set to flash. I'm gonna reset my (clicking) exposure compensation to what it should be. Alright. Aperture priority mode is set. I am resetting my camera from all the craziness that it was at before. So now we have a very, very slow shutter speed. (clicking) There we go. The flash did not fire, did it? Flash did not fire, why not? My batteries might be dying here. Are they dying? That's good. That's not good. My flash is not working. ETTL. There it goes. Alright, let's try it one more time. My auto-power off (beeping) happened. (clicking) Okay. So now what we have is we have the flash, and the camera set to the flash's color temperature. So notice that Lex has normal color. But the background, those are very, very warm, orangey lights, right. In this scenario, that actually looks pretty good. But let's do one other thing. Let's take this, and we're gonna set the white balance to incandescent. So this is gonna be set for the lights behind Lex. (clicking) Gonna take that look. Now, this (chuckling) is sort of crazy. Lex is gonna feel a little bit sad, 'cause she's blue. (chuckling) Okay. So now you can clearly see that these lights are technically the correct color temperature, but Lex is clearly from Avatar. So we've gotta fix that. (giggling) The way that we fix that is we have a gel. And this is actually made by Rogue Imaging. I don't know if you can see me, I'm totally in the dark. But this little gel here. can you get in front of this? It's called CTO, it's color temperature orange, is how I remember that. But it takes a flash and converts it from 5,500 degrees Kelvin (rustling) to 3,200 degrees Kelvin. And these are a standard little gel. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna take my flash out of that. (rustling) And then I'll try to stand back where you can actually see me. I'm just putting this over the front of my flash, this little gel. And it comes with a fancy rubber band to hold it on there. (snapping) Boom, just like that. And now this has an orange gel (tapping) over the front of the flash. I will put this back. (murmuring) Oh, I'm gonna take. Oh, let's just check. (rustling) So, full or half means how much of a correction this is, and this is a full, it looks like. So one stop is what it says, yeah. (murmuring) Yup. Yeah, so a full is gonna give you the complete color temperature shift. A half is gonna give you half of the color temperature. So you want a full to do this. That's what John is saying. So I've got this on our flash. And all it's doing is putting a little orange on there. (groaning) Now I'm gonna put this back in my softbox. (clicking) That. We're gonna shoot this exact same photo again. So our white balance is set for incandescent lights. (beeping) (clicking) Kablam. And oh, that is not the right gel! That is not the right gel! Let's check and see. Is that just a normal CTO? 'Cause yeah! (laughing) (groaning) I need some oranges! (groaning) (groaning) The voyage has been so long! It's that. (rustling) Yeah, now let me just check. We're working in the dark, so we're looking at these. Oh, yeah, it's jaundice. Full CTO, okay! I'm not sure. That was Oklahoma Yellow. Oh, we got, sorry! (laughing) The glasses aren't quite working! So, we put the wrong gel in, obviously. But yeah, you'll look like I've got the scurvy! (laughing) Are we out of potatoes?! (humming) Yeah. Alright, now let's try this. I love doing stuff live, 'cause you know. This is how, you know, the worst thing is, at some point you're gonna do this with a client around. And you just sorta have to roll with it and go oops! (humming) Yeah. You know, 'cause oh well, I meant to do that. (beeping) (clicking) Okay now. (sighing) Now, yes. (sighing) Let's take a look. Let's pretend that didn't happen. Now you can see that clearly she is balanced with the background. You know, gettin' the right gel, turning on the flash, (clicking) all that kinda stuff. Well, let's show this one more. Now we have our color totally matched, and you can see that she is the proper color and the lamps behind her are the proper color, 'cause this color temperature and this color temperature are now the same, and that's how you do that. You just put (chuckling) the correct gel on the flash and it fixes that. Alright, we can turn the lights back on. Thank you, Avatar Girl! (rattling) And the jaundice. Do you get orange from jaundice, is that right? I mean, I've never had the jaundice, so we'll see. Okay, (humming) so that's how that works. Are there any questions on balancing the color temperature of a flash to the ambient light? Basically, you just throw a gel on there and you're fine. And where's that kit? Can I see that kit really fast? So this kit here, this is made by Rogue Gear. This is called Rogue Lighting Modifiers. They also make the ExpoDisc. They also make some other stuff that we're gonna show you later on. But this has, I forgot who was asking. Somebody was asking about, yeah, like creative gels on a flash. These are in here. So you've got yellows and reds, and all these creative little things that you can do. But there's also color correction, and there's a little card in here. And it will tell you that if you need to go from 3,200 Kelvin to 4,300 Kelvin, you use a 1/2 CTB, and you can just pull that out. And so if you know the color temperature of the lights from one to the other, there's a little cheat sheet in here that will tell you what gel you need to use. And all you have to do is slap that on there, which is really cool. Okay, yes, we have a question. Oh, we have questions in the studio audience. More just a comment. Somethin' that I've noticed usin' those is, I think, important to remember, is you can actually melt the gel if you put it too close to your strobe. Yes you can! You can definitely, so it's called a gel because it's gelatin. Right. And there are a few things to do. A, you can melt the gel, absolutely, by shooting rapidly. But you can buy these in larger sheets. So you don't have to buy the kit. The kit's really nice because it's already pre-made for you, and it has all the different cheat sheets and all those types of things. But you can go to any camera store and they'll have trays of, you can just say "I need 1/2 CTO, a full CTO, or CTB." And by the way, CTB is easy to remember for a color temperature blue. What if we wanted to take these, and instead of making the flash match this color, what if we wanted to take this to match the flash's color? So what we would do is we would put blue on these, and then that would match the flash. And so you can do it either way. It's much easier to modify one light than it is 20. But that's what architectural photographers do, is they'll go through, and they'll use that little light meter thing, and they'll go "Oh, this is this color, and I need this gel. (squealing) "This is this color, I need this gel." And they'll standardize all of the different lights so that they're a consistent color, and then they'll warm or cool everything. But yeah, so you can melt the gels. The other thing is if you don't store them flat, they actually will, the stuff will move down. So the top of the gel will have less color than the bottom. And so that's why those are stored flat. But you would have to do that for quite a while for that to happen. I used to work in a theater, and man, you'd get in trouble if it wasn't stored flat! Stored flat. Okay, what other question? All those crazy colors that you have in there generally you use to, like-- To go back to the '80s is what those are for. (chuckling) No, yeah, they're for (humming) watch like, if you watch any kind of, oh, I don't know, CSI, whatever, or those kinda crazy cop shows, and things like that, you'll see (humming) lots of color added to the backgrounds of stuff. And so let's say you're shooting an environmental portrait at a bar or something like that. You might have a really cool, (humming) a bunch of bottles or something, and you have, like, a cool bartender up here doing whatever. You have some really nice, you know, wood and all that kinda stuff. What you might wanna do is when you take the picture, there's not much interest behind the person. And so maybe you wanna put a nice blue colorcast to all those bottles. You could put a little speed light back there with the blue gel and you can start introducing different colors. Joe McNally does this very well. And so that's what those are for, is to introduce different pockets of color in a scene. But not on your subject, generally. Generally no, not on the subject. You don't really want to have a green or a blue person. But like what we did earlier on mistake, where we had that shot of Lex and the white seamless was blue, what we could have done is we could've use a blue gel on a flash to make it blue to look like that. What that allows you to do is you can have a white seamless background, and you can use different gels to make that whatever color you want, which is really cool. Okay, other questions? Yes, we have a question from Zonas, who would like to know how are we going to change gels like this for wedding photographs when there isn't much time and no assistance? Any recommendations or tips? (humming) Well, it doesn't take very long to throw a gel on. I mean, it takes like 10 seconds. You just put the, have one in your pocket, and go clunk, and put a rubber band. So it's not like it's, you know, a 20 minute kind of thing. So that's one way to do it. And usually, you're only doing it one way. Almost always, if you're shooting indoors, you have an orange gel on your flash and that's it. And so putting that on and off is pretty fast. There are some, like, I think STO-FEN makes this little thing called a Omni Bounce that you can stick on your flash, and it's an orange kind of a deal. The Nikon speed lights have these little plastic (humming) color corrections that snap on. So they're really, really fast. So the SB-910s and the SB-900s, they come with the flash. So Nikon wins in that scenario. So that's pretty fast. The other thing you can do is have multiple flashes with gels already stuck on them. That's pretty expensive. I think just (click) take it out of your pocket, stick the rubber band on, and go is the way to do it. So from Anut, Dubai, can we use white balance shift without using color correction gel? You can, but it's not gonna work. So in this scenario, where we had Lex here, and she is 5,200 degrees Kelvin, and the lamps are 3,200 degrees Kelvin, you could use white balance shift to adjust for this. Right, you can shift this color and have it be correct. But that also shifts all of this. So it won't, you can only correct for one thing. It won't correct for both. So yeah, that won't work. You could do something crazy, like go into Photoshop, create a layer, mask that layer, have two different color temperatures. Or you can get a two dollar gel and a rubber band and be done, much, much faster.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.