Color Temperature and Color Casts
The light that illuminates our photographs comes in a range of different color temperatures. This term refers to the color quality of the light as we see it. We often refer to light sources, or the quality of light they produce, as being either warm or cool. The color temperature of the light can sometimes produce an obvious color cast in the image. In this article, we’ll take a look at ways to combine overall white balance corrections with techniques to apply white balance adjustments to specific areas of an image.
A noticeable color cast is not always a bad thing, and sometimes it can be a significant element in creating the visual style for a particular image, or establishing a mood. Warmer color casts suggest a warmer and more comfortable environment, such as a cozy room during the holidays.
Cooler color balances can convey not only physical cold, such as for winter or night images, but also an atmosphere that is more stark and moody, such as can be seen in the image of the baby carriage in the attic.
Overall White Balance Correction
With the White Balance Tool in Lightroom’s Develop module, you can click on a tone that should be neutral, such as a white or black with tonal detail (i.e., not completely white or black), or a gray value. I like to think of these areas as neutral guides. In the case of this still life arrangement of old cameras, I’ve placed a SpyderCUBE in the shot to serve this purpose.
This image was shot with a tungsten white balance setting, but there is still a strong yellow color cast, which is not uncommon when shooting in this type of lighting, even if you are using a tungsten white balance. A single click of the White Balance Tool on the gray side of the SpyderCUBE quickly fixes the overall white balance. Sometimes, a strictly neutral correction, might appear a bit too cool, so it’s fine to make a slight adjustment to the Temperature slider to bring back a touch of warmth.
Localized White Balance Correction
Although the overall white balance looks good, it has introduced some changes that need to be fixed. Since the image was shot with mixed light sources (the lamp and daylight from the window) the exterior view through the window is now much too blue. Secondly, the lampshade has lost the nice warmth commonly associated with a small lamp and looks a bit too cool. Fortunately these can be easily fixed using one of the local adjustment tools.
The Adjustment Brush was used to paint over the view out the window (seen below left in Overlay mode, showing the painted area with a red overlay). Then new values for the Temperature and the Tint were applied to modify the color balance of just that area so that the leaves on the trees looked green and not blue (below right).
Next, a similar adjustment was applied to the lampshade to bring back some of the warmer yellow color in that area.
The final version displays the benefits of both the overall correction that was applied by clicking on the neutral gray target with Lightroom’s White Balance Tool, as well as the custom white balance adjustments applied locally to the lampshade and the window using the Adjustment Brush. When working with images where the scene was illuminated by mixed lighting and different color temperatures, using Lightroom’s local adjustment tools can be an effective way to create a more pleasing color balance for different areas of the image. In addition to the Adjustment Brush, depending on the needs of the image and the types of areas that need to be fixed, the Graduated Filter and the Radial Filter can also be used for this.
For more examples of Seán’s work visit: http://www.seanduggan.com/