Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Color Temperature.

Let's talk about color. Or, rather, the psychology of color. There is a school of thought out there that says we humans are comforted by "warm" colors and discomfited by "cool" colors. A crackling fireplace, candle light, a campfire, sunrises and sunsets... these tend to instill in us a settled, even soothed emotion. And the warmth (color wise, not just heat wise) is in no small part the reason for this relaxed feeling.

Before the digital camera explosion photographers employed various techniques to create this warmth in their photos. An amber glass filter over the lens or shooting with daylight balanced film under tungsten lights. Today, we have white balance (WB) control in our dSLRs.

We can adjust the settings so as to create a cool, bluish tint in our photos or, as I usually like to do, create a more warm, yellowish/orange tint.

Below are two examples. One is shot at sunrise on a hazy beach morning. The other is around a fire-pit and tiki torches. You can see the effect you get setting the WB to a warmer setting and what happens when you set it to a cooler setting. Everyone is different, of course, so you may not like the warmer tones. But generally speaking, it is the warmer tones that people gravitate to when looking through images. Keep this in mind when your making your photographs. Are you creating an image that attracts people or gives them a sense of unease?

This is necessarily an incomplete post. Feel free to pepper me with questions if you need this fleshed out a little more.

Meantime, dig out your camera's manual and have some fun playing around with your white balance settings.




  1. As you point, out we used to do this with filters but what we have today is the ability to easily use White Balance creatively w/o the need to buy all sorts of extra items.

  2. I like the first and last picture the best. The first because of the sun. The last because I have a better view of Rachel's beautiful face.