Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

In photography, colour balance is the global adjustment of the intensities of the colours (typically red, green, and blue primary colours). An important goal of this adjustment is to render specific colours, particularly neutral colours, like grey, correctly.The general method is usually called White Balance.

Most digital cameras have a means to select a colour balance based on the type of scene illumination. Colour Balance will be different, in each case, for a sunset or a scene indoors. To make things easy Camera Manufacturers include an option to use Automatic White Balance (AWB) in the camera settings and it is probably setting used by most camera users. However, there is usually the option to choose Manual or Custom White Balance in a cameras system menu.

Many of my photographs are land or seascapes, which means I am shooting in Natural Light. Every 24 hours approximately, our planet goes through a cycle of revolving on its axis. This means that at some point in time during those 24 hours we are likely to see some form of natural light. I’ve found that for photography one of the best times to catch this natural light is the Golden Hour.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Typically, lighting is softer (more diffuse) and warmer in hue.  When the sun is near or below the horizon, sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere, reducing the intensity of the direct light. This means that more of the illumination comes from indirect light from the sky, which tends to make the available light more reddish. In addition, the sun’s small angle with the horizon produces longer shadows but if you wait to the sun just dips below the horizon, shadows are relatively non-existent.

This brings me back to Colour Balancing. To make the best of this natural light I don’t use AWB. Instead I prefer to balance manually. In conjunction with a grey card, remember grey is a neutral colour, I manually set the white balance for a particular scene.

Artificial lighting on the other hand, tends to be quite harsh and it plays havoc with the cameras sensor and White Balance. There are so many different types of lighting. Fluorescent alone has 4 types that I know of, Daylight Colour, Daylight White, Cool White and Warm White.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Each of those lighting types has a different effect on the cameras White Balance and of course there’s no easy way of telling which type of lighting is used.

Where am I going with this? You know, I really not sure. This post started off originally with me including the sunset and talking about natural light. At that point I was trying to follow the brief from Cheri by having;

“a creative interpretation and more abstract approach”

Somehow or other during the writing of this article I revised it to include White Balance which has a dramatic effect on the colour and illumination of an image. I think I’m going to stop now.


32 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

    1. It can be a nightmare at times Cheryl, especially if you adjust the WB and forget to adjust it for the next shoot. Did it once in South Africa. I’d adjusted for lots of Tungsten lights in an evening shoot. Next day went out in bright sunlight and forgot to adjust again. Lots of never to be repeated photographs all with a distinctly blue tinge to them. Fortunately I could correct it in software.


  1. Beautiful (first0 photo. I think you posted this scene before but not during the golden hour. It pays to be at a certain time when ever you want to capture something that you have in mind. I hope you didn’t have to wait too long to get the shot you wanted.


    1. After I took this one I stayed on the beach for the “Blue Hour”. The light is even greater then and everything takes on a soft blue look, Difficult to describe but I really like that time of day.


  2. Thanks so much for this post. My obsession for ocean photography often leads me to take photographs during that golden hour, but I have never experimented with the white balance. Shall do so next time and see what manifests. Cheers, Cinova


    1. White Balance can have a really dramatic effect from making a photograph look warm right down to really cold, even on a sunny day. Best of all you can also adjust WB after the vent if you have software like Photoshop


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