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Determining Colour Temp in Camera for different lighting.

MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
edited October 2016 in technique & style & stuff
Hi Everyone
I have a rudimentary question. What is the best way to figure out what colour setting to put your camera in.
Obviously if your indoors and there are only tungsten lights I can gel the flash at set the camera for tungsten . Or out door with use day light.
But  I recently did some shots in a bowling ally and office party  and wasn't quite sure what WB  to set camera at in some lighting conditions.
Ive included a un-edited images to show as an example... First one WB was set for Sunny
I know I won't get perfect in camera but I would like to get close, is there a better way then just kinda guessing?

Lou Recine
Owner Matrix Photography and Design


This one was incandescent WB



  • There are three ways which come to mind. If you know the lighting will not change during your shooting you can set the WB of your camera to the appropriate setting. For example, if you know you are shooting under tungsten lights you would set your WB to tungsten. If fluorescent lights, one of the two fluorescent settings.

    The second option is to set a custom WB. Set your camera to custom and point it at a white surface which is being lit by the lights you are shooting under. Make sure you fill the frame with the white surface. You do not need to be in focus.

    Take a shot. Your camera will now be set to the correct WB for that lighting condition.

    There's a third way, and a neat trick, for Nikon cameras (Canon may have the same option). Go to Live View and look at how the scene looks. If not good, change your WB setting while looking at Live View. As you change the setting you will see the scene change. When it looks close, there's your WB.

    I'm sure others who are more knowledgeable will correct me if I'm wrong, but those are the three ways which come to mind.
  • Thanks Kevin
    I like the Third way but what happens when you add a on camera flash to the mix. Would you WB for the flash?

    Lou Recine
    Owner Matrix Photography and Design

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    There are so many variables under those shooting conditions that you need to take into consideration.

    Ambient Colour
    Flash Colour
    Bouncing off of walls ceiling Colour (white or coloured)

    Kevin had a good idea re looking at Live Mode, but as you then pointed out, adding flash is a different kettle of fish.

    So, first thing is to get your exposure as right as possible because believe it or not that is a factor especially if you under-expose.

    So what to do.

    1] Before taking a shot, and you know it's going to be under tungsten, I immediately drop Kelvin to around the 3800-4200 +/- 200, and knowing I will be using flash, I put on a 1/2 CTS gel onto the flash head.

    The reason for this is flash under normal conditions is pretty cold, especially speedlites on camera, so you need around 5500K for flash, but if you want to balance the ambient (which will be very warm), by dropping the K to around 3800-4200, it will drop the ambient a bit so it's not too warm, but also, that flash with the gel will then throw warm light to compensate for skin tones.

    However, that's under ideal conditions as in white walls/ceilings, so if those are coloured you need to adjust.

    Simply the best way to adjust, just take a shot, look at the LCD and drop Kelvin or increase it until it looks right.

    Remember Neil's (and mine) mantra, "Pleasing Skin Tones", pure and simple.

    I know you can get it corrected in post with RAW files, but getting it close in camera first up will also help with exposure because with wrong colour temp, you get different clipping of colour channels, therefore when you correct WB you will see different exposure.

    It's *always* preferable to have slight over-exposure than under, because the skin, especially when opened back up if under-exposed, will be muddy and adding wrong WB to that exacerbates the problems.

    The moment I am walking into a venue/reception, I put ISO to 1600, f4, 125th; WB to 4200K and start from there as a base.

    Sometimes I don't use the gel, because the last wedding I did, it was a giant marquee (and I mean giant 40m long 30m wide and around 8m high) it was all white inside (brilliant) with white 'wedding streamers, banners, etc.' and whitish wall lights with a tungsten chandelier in center so the WB I put was 5600K, no gel and I only had to tweak very slightly for colour.

    On the other hand, if you have flash pretty dominant on subject/s, and bouncing off white/light walls and don't care about WB for background you will need around 5500K for skin tones.

    Just practice inside your own home, dead easy, and soon you will be nailing it within 1 to 2 shots acceptable from the get go.


  • Hi Trev
    Actually it would explain a lot. Ive been using the pre-set WB. No matter how much I take down the FEC the image on LCD shows clipping.
    Some of the one I took at the Bowling ally I took the FEC down to 1.7 to avoid blinkies . But when I took images into computer the flash barley registered.
    Obviously . So I'll  try using Kelvin Scale instead of presets. It might take me a bit to get use to.
    Also I have one more question is there a big difference between full CTO and 1/2 , the reason I ask is because Im currently using the  hard CTO filter that comes with flash should I also get a 1/2 CTO as well ..

    Lou Recine
    Owner Matrix Photography and Design

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    CTS, different to CTO (CTS Colour Temperature Straw - CTO Colour Temperature Orange) and 'Straw' is the preferred for skin tones, 'Orange', well, who wants orange skin.


    1/2 strength is all you need, if using direct flash with it on, you will need to have WB to around 3800K.


  • Ok Ok
    I can create some 1/2 CTO with the filter holder that come with Sb-910 and Gel filters.
    Thanks for the insight...

    Lou Recine
    Owner Matrix Photography and Design

  • Lou - I run into this issue a LOT. I have many instances where I'm going back and forth between a room with tungsten and a room with old-style florescent. I do gel my flash for each room, I switch the gels in and out. If it's a really tricky room, I will use a gray card, but I will also fire my flash off the surface I am most likely to bounce off. If all four surfaces of the room are different colors, I will shoot 4 different gray-card versions, but I've only done that once and it's tricky.

    I use 1/2 CTS, on the long-ago (haha one year ago) advice from Neil.

    Trve - SO funny and SO cool to get an insight to your experience. Last week I had an event in a tungsten-lit room. I set the camera to Tungsten, gelled my flash, and I felt I had a very good night. When I sucked the photos into LR and used the eye-dropper, the temperature went from 3250 to 3700, right in your range you described.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    There is one more option if you have the time which takes ambient/flash combined and is dead easy on Nikon.

    Get something white, like a tablecloth, get exposure right (ambient and flash) go to your WB settings and choose Custom, take a shot, commit that to the custom WB and bang away and you will be nicely well within the ball park.

    The beauty of Nikon compared to Canon with custom WB is you don't need to even have it focused, make sure you fill the frame at least 3/4 and you get a damn great starting point.

    In fact, I tested last night and merely filled the frame with a roll of white paper towels on my bench top and when I custom set it, it looked perfect on my LCD as the scene did with my eyes, with flash bouncing off a dark brick wall, white ceiling, white refrigerator door behind/side to me and the 2 fluros I have.


    I should have mentioned that earlier, sorry.

  • Just to chime in: I had a PBS event last night. I have taken photos in this venue many times, and it's just awful. It's a big, high-ceiling venue. There are so many different colored lights hanging from the ceiling. One wall is a steel gray; one wall is dark paneling; one wall is floor-to-ceiling glass.

    In earlier events in this room, I would expose properly for the people in the photo, and bounce my flash to lift things a bit. But, the crazy ambient has driven me crazy when developing the photos. As I get more experience, I know that in a situation like this, the ambient has to be stamped down by a couple of stops. But for this, there is no way a Speedlite on camera is going to cut it. I haven't looked at anything yet, but what I did, or tried, was under-exposing the ambient by 1-2 stops, and using a Lumiquest 80/20 to fill in. I had it on ETTL, at 0 or +2/3. We'll see ....
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Another but of trickery to mess you up ... with some types of lighting (such as fluorescent), the color will change depending on your shutter speed, and the point of the cycle you are in with the lighting. So if you shoot with the ambient light only, you will find your WB will change between images. 
  • Wicked interesting! I write that because there are times I feel some of my better photos have come under the old, tube-style fluorescent lights. I gel the flash green, change the WB to fluorescent, and barely have to touch the temperature in LR. But really interesting about the cycle of the light, etc.

    On a related topic, I've got another post that was spurred by this discussion. I can't make you do it, but that's the one I wish you would comment and/or give advice on :)
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