Shooting Under Mixed Lighting Conditions

“Light is an interpretive tool in the hands of a photographer. He can make it harsh or soft, revealing or concealing, flattering or libelous. The more he knows about the versatility of light, the easier it is to cope with any picture-taking situation he encounters.”—Peter Gowland, 1960

ferisAs a wise photographer once told me, light may be light but it’s not always the same color as you might think it is. When making photographs, many of us typically think in terms of daylight as being the “proper time” for making photographic exposures and this means that many photo opps at night or late in the day are often overlooked. They shouldn’t be but even the colors of daylight are not the same. Most people look at the golden hour and see the beauty of the subject, no more and no less. To work successfully in low light, we need to know more about the nature of light so we can digitally capture images that others merely give a fleeting look.

lightislightThe color temperature emitted by various light sources is measured in degrees on the Kelvin (K) scale. The sun on a clear day at noon is 5500 degrees K. On an overcast day the color temperature of light rises to 6700 degrees K, while you will experience 9000 degrees K in open shade on a clear day. When we photograph a sunrise, its color temperature may be 1800 degrees. Lights used by videographers or the tungsten bulbs used in so-called “hot lights” have a Kelvin temperature of 3200 degrees. The light from household lamps are close to that color temperature and measure about 2600 degrees Kelvin.

Photographing in museums, such as the San Diego Automobile Museum, can be a challenge because of the kind of mixed lighting conditions that exist. Exposure was 1/15 sec at f/4.5 at ISO 400. Understanding the concepts behind White Balance and the many options that are available to digital photographers make sure that this white vintage Indy racer is really white.

Author: Joe Farace

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