Quick Tip: How Color Casts Influence The Final Photograph

The Color of Light

Knowing how to identify the color of light or color cast will give you greater creative control over your final photograph and will help eliminate the frustration of having to go back and correct the color cast in post-production. But if the color can be corrected using software like Lightroom or Photoshop, why is this important to know how to identify the color of light at the time the photograph is taken? Because light is often times the catalyst for creating a dramatic photograph that elicits emotion and creates mood – it is often the very thing that makes your photograph stand out from the rest and makes it unique and interesting.

The color of light has a metaphysical effect on a photograph and knowing how to see the color of light accurately enables you to control that emotion. But knowing how to identify the true color may take some practice. As photographers we need to train our eye to see the color of light. Our brains and ocular system automatically neutralize the color shifts of light faster than we can perceive the shift in color. Therefore, “white” looks white no matter what kind of lighting situation or color cast may be present. But with practice we can learn to see the shifts.

Some artificial light influencers include florescent (which can cast green tones), incandescent (which can cast orange tones) and tungsten (which can cast red tones). Natural light also has color casts. Daylight can vary dramatically from sunrise, to midday, to sunset and twilight. The oranges, yellows, and magenta’s of sunrise and sunset are easier to see then the steely blue light of midday.

If you were to photograph a path through the forest in the deep blueness of twilight, with moon light streaming through the trees onto the path, the feelings of anxiety or trepidation may overpower you. Whereas if you photograph the same path in the in the golden glow of sunrise or sunset, you may view the path as inviting and you may find yourself daydreaming about being on that path enjoying the beauty of your surroundings and the warmth of the sun as it darts through the windows of the trees.

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