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The Color of Light

Knowing how to identify the color of light or color cast will give you greater creative control over your final photograph and will help eliminate the frustration of having to go back and correct the color cast in post-production. But if the color can be corrected using software like Lightroom or Photoshop, why  is this important to know how to identify the color of light at the time the photograph is taken? Because light is often times the catalyst for creating a dramatic photograph that elicits emotion and creates mood – it is often the very thing that makes your photograph stand out from the rest and makes it unique and interesting.

The color of light has a metaphysical effect on a photograph and knowing how to see the color of light accurately enables you to control that emotion. But knowing how to identify the true color may take some practice. As photographers we need to train our eye to see the color of light. Our brains and ocular system automatically neutralize the color shifts of light faster than we can perceive the shift in color. Therefore, “white” looks white no matter what kind of lighting situation or color cast may be present.  But with practice we can learn to see the shifts.

Some artificial light influencers include florescent (which can cast green tones), incandescent (which can cast orange tones) and tungsten (which can cast red tones). Natural light also has color casts. Daylight can vary dramatically from sunrise, to midday, to sunset and twilight. The oranges, yellows, and magenta’s of sunrise and sunset are easier to see then the steely blue light of midday.

If you were to photograph a path through the forest in the deep blueness of twilight, with moon light streaming through the trees onto the path, the feelings of anxiety or trepidation may overpower you. Whereas if you photograph the same path in the in the golden glow of sunrise or sunset, you may view the path as inviting and you may find yourself daydreaming about being on that path enjoying the beauty of your surroundings and the warmth of the sun as it darts through the windows of the trees.

About the Author

Ray Mabry has over twenty years experience in photography. He started in film and used black and white to capture images in architecture, landscape and abstract forms. In 2001 Ray, with his extensive computer technology and digital imagery experience, made a natural and seamless migration to digital. Whether shooting film or digital, Ray loves the freedom of creative expression that photography has to offer.

A writer, a photography instructor and photojournalist, his goal is to capture the sights, sounds, and feel of the environment and translate those senses into a visual experience that will transcend the two-dimensional bounds of the photograph itself.

Ray has a professional photography studio,, runs a blog and also co-organizes a Meetup group called the Sonoma County Photography Group,

Tags: Digital Photography, Light, Lightroom, photoshop, Ray Mabry, The Color of Light,

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