Project The colour of light

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 1

In most photography there is no need to be exact about colour temperature; it is enough to know when the light is not white, if only by a little, or by a lot.  For this exercise a subject was chosen that can be moved around and is not of a strong colour, also a clear sunny day was required.  Three photographs were taken, one in full sun during the middle of the day, one with the subject in the shade and a third when the sun is close to the horizon. The camera’s white balance must be set to ‘daylight’ not ‘automatic’.

I chose my dog for this as he is fairly moveable (too moveable in fact) and because he is a consistent ‘blonde’ colour like a skin tone.


      sunlight during the middle of the day


        shade during the middle of the day


         sun on the horizon during sunset

Interesting results with the midday sun image providing the closest to the true colour. The shaded image is bluer and cold whereas the sunset image provides a more natural orange tint to the coat.

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 2

For this exercise the same time of day was utilised except in this case the white balance was varied in each case to ‘sunlight’, ‘shade’ and ‘Auto’.


          midday sunlight  / WB: sunlight


               midday sunlight / WB: shade


                  midday sunlight / WB: Auto

The sunlight and auto WB settings gave a truer colour than the shade setting. The shade WB setting produced an orange tint to the dog and the grass. I would be happy to use either sunlight and auto in this midday sun setting.


               midday shade / WB: sunlight


              midday shade / WB: shade


            midday shade / WB: Auto

In the midday shade I saw very different results. The WB sunlight produced a bluer colder colour and the shade and auto setting produced the truer colours with the shade being my preference.


             setting sun / WB: sunlight


               setting sun / WB: shade


                setting sun / WB: Auto

Less of a difference between these three images. The sunlight and the auto WB probably give the closest to the true colours whilst the shade WB gave a more intense orange tint to the coat.

Conclusion: I’ve  learned that there is a marked range in the colour temperature depending at what time of day the photograph is taken. As these exercises were completed in late February at a fairly northern latitude the midday sun was consequently low in the sky. The auto WB does a reasonably good job of compensating for the different light settings – which is what I normally have used in the past for most photographs.


This shows the variation in colour temperatures from 2,000 K at early sunrise through 5,000 K at noon up to 8,000 K with an overcast daylight sky.