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Photography Question 
Michelle B. Prince
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/16/2004

Setting Color Temperature

I just purchased the Canon 20D and love it. I was looking through the menu and instruction manual and noticed it has a setting for adjusting color temperature. It is set at 5200k. What do I need to know about this to start shooting with this camera? It was not a feature on the Rebel that I have been using. Thank you to anyone who comments.

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4/16/2005 6:37:44 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Hi Michelle,
This camera and many others allow you to adjust the color temperature for varied light situations. The Kelvin Temperature for daylight/outdoors is 5200-5500K for normal midday light. As the sun sets and the light becomes very warm, the Kelvin color temp changes dramatically. Your tungsten lamps in a home are 3200K, much more amber than daylight and Cool White Fluorescents are roughly 4000K.

Now with all that, how to use the camera normally: Leave your camera set at the 5200K when you are shooting outdoors. When the sun sets and warms up the light, leave it 5200K still, so that your pictures reflect that warm light.

When shooting indoors, set the camera to AWB (auto white balance), and it will adjust the color balance quite well and give you normal-looking color. There are also some presets for different situations, like fluorescents, that come with the camera, and I personally do not use those because my color has to be perfect in my commercial work, so I use a color meter.

It is always good to run some tests with these presets, and check your results to gain more understanding.
Have fun!

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4/16/2005 7:46:30 AM

Ben M. Trapnell   Charlie, I will go back to Michelle's question: How do you set the white balance? You said to leave it alone or use AWB, but you don't do that because your color has to be perfect. When is auto good enough and when isn't it? Does your color meter tell you what to set (temperature)in your camera or do you compensate for specific temperatures? Warmer doesn't mean higher temperature, does it? Warmer light is "cooler" (degrees K) than "cooler light" ... right? How about those mixed situations where one part is illuminated with sodium vapor while the other is fluorescent?

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4/19/2005 5:39:16 PM

To change your color balance setting, go to the top of the camera and above the LED are 4 small buttons. You want the one AF-WB (WB for White Balance). If you hold that down and rotate the speed dial on the rear of the camera and look in the LED, you will see the symbols for AWB, K, and the other presets. If you leave the camera on AWB when shooting in different lighting conditions, the camera does a very good job averaging the scene. If you have daylight coming through a window and a tungsten ceiling spots hitting the wall and a big cool white fluorescent fixture above, you have three different colored light sources.

Color shifts in any direction are not always acceptable to a client paying you to do precise work. If you look through the viewfinder and compose your scene, the color-correcting ability of the camera may be influenced more by one colored light source over another. A person with a green face is unacceptable. I hope someday that they further the color ability of these cameras where they actually tell you the Kelvin temp of the scene. A color meter will measure everything precisely and tell you the Kelvin temp and what filters you would put on the lens (film cameras) to correct for the color shift. You can correct the same shift by setting the Kelvin temp (from the color meter reading) in the camera. You again hold down the WB button and rotate the dial until K comes up. Then on the LCD, bring up the menu and rotate through the menu to COLOR TEMP and change that to the Kelvin temp reading the color meter gave you. Now if you are thinking that the camera does that, you are right, so it depends on the shot you are taking.

Look in my gallery at some of the corporate annual report images I have in there. I love to use colored gels to hide ugly industrial environments. I put a blue gel on one light and a green gel on another and point them at the background and light my subject - say, a worker - normally. Now if I used AWB, the camera would attempt to correct the blue and green, and I don't want that. So I color meter where my subject is and make necassary adjustments for the light that hits the worker and leave the blue green to go their way.

Now you could also do a similar approach by using custom white balance right where your subject is, but I don't because I already have the meter and it is faster. Warmer light is LOWER in temperature, with tungsten at 3200K, and cooler light is higher up in the 7000-10,000K. When you have sodiums and fluorescents combined, you have to pick one or the other or average them and hope for the best, and often it is not perfect. Hope this helps.

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4/19/2005 6:55:44 PM

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