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The Trio: Lighting, White Balance, and Color

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What I learned over a long period of trail and error is that it is so important to use your own discretion. The reason is that the color temperature is not the same or consistent throughout the image. The image white balance will change in the areas filled with direct sunlight or it will be different in the shadow areas or it will be different again in areas with artificial light. Which of these areas will become the right sampling area? When the camera or PC program re-build the color image, it is just impossible to recreate these small color nuances in a image if the WB information is incorrect. Color casts is another classic result when the WB information is not correct. What we see when looking at a typical RAW converter like that of Bibble or Adobe, is that the WB setting consist of a Kelvin color temperature slider (value) plus a hue slider (value). If the WB setting had only one variable (slider) then it was easy for us to seek the right value by moving the slider in the editing software left and right until one find the right position. As said white balance adjustments really has two or more settings. That makes it nearly impossible to adjust white balance using trail and error. Its so important to practice adjusting or setting the white balance correctly. When the image signal hits the camera, it passes through the lens, then into the camera body, next signal pass through a RGB filter that is placed on top of the sensor and then it hits the image sensor. Typically in our own minds we think of an image in color and most people never realize that the camera sensor only reads a black and white image signal. To better understand how the camera go about preparing the b&w image for the sensor, lets have a closer look at what really happens from taking the image, too saving it on disk.

Indirect light, by contrast, is light coming in from all sides. Technically speaking, there’s always some small amount of light bouncing around and hitting your subject on all sides too. The difference with indirect light is that it is more evenly balanced. In other words, the light reflecting onto the other side of your subject is nearly the same intensity as the source itself. Light graffiti is everywhere at the moment and is a fantastic to way to get creative with light trails at night. Set up your camera on a tripod, with ISO of between 400-800. During the exposure you’ll want to ‘draw’ an image or word with a beam of light such as glow stick, torch or sparkler for example. Most indirect light isn’t completely indirect either. The original source is usually a little brighter than the sources of reflected light. To see what I mean, just think of an overcast day. We would say this is an indirect lighting situation, but if you look at the sun, it’s still brighter than anything else around. The real difference, then, is the degree to which it is bright. On an overcast day, it’s relatively less bright than on a fully sunny day. Painting with light is a fun technique to try out at night and is an ideal way of adding light to the scene to enhance a particular immobile object, such as a tree, rock face, bench etc.  Position your camera on a tripod and ramp up the ISO to around 400. Dial in a shutter speed of 15-20 seconds and to avoid camera jog, use the self timer to activate the shutter. During the release, light your subject with a beam of light from a torch and ‘paint’ with the light to ensure the entire object has been covered.

Complementary colours are any two colours which lie opposite each other on the colour wheel. Two such opposite colours can be regarded as being in balance when they appear together. In the picture above the Orange carp provide the pleasing complement needed to the Blue water. In fact, when complementary colours appear together they increase their intensity though a process called Simultaneous Contrast. Green is a second-order colour formed from the mixing of Yellow and Blue. As with Orange it is capable of a wide range of tonalities or shades. Of course Green is the predominant colour of vegetation and as such is dominant in many landscape photographs. Interestingly, in searching my portfolio for sample images for this article I found that Green was the hardest colour for me to find. Curious. Harmonizing colors are ones which can be found on the color circle by visualizing the three points of an isosceles triangle that sits in the middle of the circle. This places two of the three colours just one colour zone apart with the third at the long end of the triangle opposite.  People with a good colour sense instinctively choose colours which are harmonious when decorating their home. Photographers, unless they are working in a studio, rarely have the ability to select their palette. But it is helpful to understand when you do encounter a color combination that is harmonious, such as the one in the photograph above, why this is so. It’s very important to isolate colors when trying to create a dramatic image. Using a telephoto or zoom lens will allow you to isolate a particular part of a scene that has a striking color or combination of colors. Another technique is to use your feet and change the angle of view so that the color is isolated from its surroundings. Getting in closer helps and allows you to combine colors that are more interesting and work well together, e.g. contrasting or complementary colors.

With white balance to guage and master your lighting for perfect color, you'll be on your way to outstanding photos! To see the manual and automatic settings for these features, check out what your Nikon D4 or Nikon d7100 camera has to offer.

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