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The Color of Light

Light has color. You usually don't notice it because your brain compensates for it, but the film in your camera doesn't. Just try taking a photo indoors under artificial lighting without a flash. If it's incandescent lighting, your photo will have an orange color cast. If it's fluorescent lighting, the color will have a green or magenta color cast.

The color of light is measured as a temperature in degrees Kelvin (K). On a bright sunny day, the color temperature of sunlight is about 5500K. In the shade or when there are clouds, the color temperature of the light increases making it more blue. At sunset, when the suns rays have to travel farther than usual, the color temperature of light decreases, making it more red.

You can adjust for these changes in the color of light by using Color Compensating (CC) filters on your camera. The most popular of these is the Kodak Wratten series of filters. For example, to warm up a scene (make it more red), use a Wratten 81A or 81B filter (B is more powerful than A). To cool the light down or to correct for tungsten lighting used with daylight film, use the Wratten 80 series of filters. There is even a special filter for correcting for fluorescent lighting - -- the FLD filter (fluorescent -- daylight). Be careful not to use this filter with flash unless you put a green filter on it (the flash)- - otherwise, you will have just changed the color of your photos from green to magenta!

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