Understanding & Utilizing Color Balance Tutorial

When it comes to professional and commercial work, color balance is critical. It helps you produce results with the most true-to-life colors. In order to achieve an image that has good color balance, it’s important that you make the camera recognize colors precisely. Cinematographer Matthew Rosen along with Kinetik explains in detail how you can achieve and utilize color balance when shooting photos and videos—and why you shouldn’t worry too much about it:

Nanometer Scale

Light travels in the form of waves. The different frequencies of these waves represent different colors. And the wavelength, which is the distance between consecutive peaks of the wave, is measured in terms of nanometers.

“Cinematographers measure these combinations of wavelengths as color temperature, or Kelvin.”

Kelvin Scale

Most of us are familiar with the Kelvin scale. It represents the color temperatures of various light sources. For instance, tungsten light measures at around 3,200K and daylight is around 5,600K.

If you’re using an LED light with variable temperature and high CRI, you still need to know the color temperature of the environment you want to match it to. This can be done using color temperature meters.

Data Techniques to Take Control Over Color

Today, data cameras have an efficient alternative to monitor color in real-time. Digital cameras have a color temperature or white balance setting that you can use. Using a white or a grey card and choosing to set the white balance manually, you can accurately set the camera to read and record accurate colors.

For instance, if you place a white card illuminated with tungsten light, and set the white balance, the camera will recognize orange light as white by setting the color temperature to 3,200K.

Vectorscopes that are found in most modern-day cameras are another efficient way to take control over colors. It consists of triangular slices that represent different colors. The indicator which is known as cathode, shifts from the center towards the slice that represents the color in the scene. The further it moves in a particular color slice, the more dominant that particular color is.

By constantly monitoring where the vectorscope is placed, you can have better control over the colors in your scene.

“By putting a white or gray card in front of the light you are shooting in, the vector will accurately show the color temperature of that light.”

Why You Shouldn’t Color Balance Too Often

“View temperature and color as not a problem to be solved, but a tool to be used.”

Chances are that even if you invest much of your time to painstakingly balance colors, you may not end up getting pleasing results. So instead, what you can do is use the color balance process to play with mixed temperatures and hues. This can add life and individuality to the images.

You can deliberately shoot at higher or lower color temperatures to support the visual story with colors. The idea is not to suck the colors out of the image but to use the colors as creatively as possible.

For further training: The Rich & Vibrant Color Photography Guide

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