Working with Mixed Color Temperature Light


Storytellers are filmmakers. They tell the stories of the human experience via their lenses. It is their job to make the audience feel something—hopefully many things—whether they are taking the viewer on a fictional journey in a narrative film or a real-life experience in a documentary. To create these feelings, filmmakers have a variety of tools at their disposal, but light and color are among the most powerful.


Types of Lights

Lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We’ll concentrate on the lights you’re most likely to see on a movie set in this section. Tungsten, HMI, Fluorescent, and LED are all terms that come to mind when thinking of lighting. Don’t forget that the sun provides another source of free light every day.

Tungsten Lights are comparable to light bulbs you may already have in your house, but they are significantly more powerful. The color orange is produced that consumes a lot of energy and is quite hot, but they provide a warmer color temperature than incandescent tungsten lights. Tungsten lights may be dimmed, so you can adjust them as needed. They’re typically utilized to illuminate interiors. To make them look like daylight, use a blue gel.

Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide (HMI) is the most common type of light on set. HMI lights emit a blue-tinted UV light and require an electrical ballast to turn on. The metal-halide gas and mercury vapor mix in the bulb are ignited by the ballast. Ballasts also help to reduce flickering by limiting the current. Traditional incandescent bulbs are up to four times as powerful than HMI lamps. When powering on HMI bulbs, there is a very loud noise, thus the lighting technician must shout “striking” to alert the cast and crew.

Fluorescent Lamps were known for flickering and an unattractive orange-green color; however, new ballast-equipped bulbs and fittings have recently been created. The new bulbs are flicker-free and come in a variety of colors. They produce a soft light that is more efficient than an incandescent bulb and can produce a similar output as HMI lights.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have recently become considerably more common on small television sets. The diodes are made to emit light in a specific direction. They are incredibly efficient, but their overall production is restricted, which is why they are typically utilized on modest budget projects. 


The Scale of Light Color Temperatures

Color temperature is measured in units with a K after it, such as 3000K or 5500K, on a scale of 1,000 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin. The scale is simple to use. The light will be warmer and more yellow/orange as the Kelvin scale number decreases. The bluer the light is, the higher the number on the scale.


The color temperatures available in popular light sources are represented on this scale. They fluctuate in color from orange to blue, but keep in mind that it’s all white light. On the Kelvin scale of color temperature, this image indicates that the product is 5200K.

The sun at midday has a temperature of 5780 Kelvin, which is an excellent point of comparison. When you look at that color temperature on the scale, you’ll notice that it’s approaching the bluish region of light. As a result, what you think of as white light actually contains a hint of blue in it. 

Bulb temperatures in the 2000-3000 Kelvin range are used in most household lights, giving off a white light with overtones of yellow and orange. The glow of fire creates a warm, yellow/orange light, which a candle detects at 1900K. Remember that these are all different hues of white light.


Understanding Lighting and Color Temperature

Light is used to physically shape subjects and their surroundings, but the lighting that filmmakers employ will render colors that can be blended to provide a more thorough emotional and visceral viewing experience unless your tale is delivered in black and white. 

Every light has a different color temperature, and the light source will disclose its color partiality depending on how you adjust your camera’s white balance. 

Whether you’re using solely natural light, like Emmanuel Lubezki did for The Revenant, or artificial light sources such as LED, tungsten, or HMI, each light source has a different color temperature, which will be rendered differently as your camera’s white balance is modified.

The color temperature of ambient light outside on a bright sunny day, for example, will be around 6,500 kelvins, and if we white balance our camera to that temperature, the light will appear white and the colors will appear realistic. Working with Mixed Color Temperature Light is not as easy as it seems. Here are some tips to help you photograph properly in a mixed light setting.


Tip 1: Scout Prior To The Shoot

This is a crucial piece of advice for all photographers. Prior to the shoot, scouting will allow photographers to gain a better understanding of the area. Determine the number and location of light sources in a particular region. 

Search for windows and overhead lights and note which will work best for the type of shot you’re doing. If one light source dominates the others, use that color temperature as a starting point until you have the capacity to remove it. Take practice pictures to have a better understanding of how a camera manipulates the light in the scene, and establish a list of any extra light sources that may be required.


Tip 2: Shoot RAW

When you shoot RAW footage instead of JPEG, you have additional options in post-production for manipulating the light sources. Color temperature correction is not embedded in RAW photographs, allowing you to alter and adjust the images completely in post-production. This provides a lot more room for photographers to work with. Moreover, RAW files can be obtained if any color temperature tweaks are required while shooting for a client with a post-production team, such as Shutterstock Custom.


Tip 3: Block Unnecessary Light Sources

Block any light sources that you don’t want in the photo. Consider turning off the indoor lights and manipulating the light streaming in through the windows if you’re shooting in a house interior. You may need to compensate for other camera settings to adjust, but the clashing light source will be reduced. You can also close the curtains and concentrate on adjusting the indoor light sources.


Tip 4: Positioning Your Subject

Once the lighting is in place, position your subject in a spot where they will be well emphasized by the light. One important point to remember is that the subject should only be lighted by one light source. Consider placing your subject towards the window if there are harsh overhead lights but a wide window in a shoot setting. This may help by allowing natural light in and reducing the amount of artificial light in the background. 


Tip 5: Filling Up Unwanted Shadows 

Shooting in the middle of the day may produce harsh shadows. To make a more attractive shot, utilize a fill source, such as a reflector, to soften or eliminate shadows. If you have a professional reflector and assistance (or a C-stand) to help you, that’s fantastic! If not, a white sheet of paper might be used as a substitute. Simply, you want something that will brighten and soften that shadow in comparison to the highlighted section of the light source.



This Shoot At Sight blog is merely a basic introduction to mixed lighting. Any Video Production Company will tell you that it’s a profound and complicated subject. You will feel more in control of the light you work with if you understand the challenges with mixed lighting and know how to overcome or embrace them. 

Especially for photographers, mixed lighting is a major concern. Mastering this skill, on the other hand, will not only produce stunning images but will also amaze clients. There’s nothing more amazing about a photographer than mastering the lighting and camera aspects that go into making a shot. Sharpen your skills with color grading tutorials, training, and online courses today!

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