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Sometimes the odds are against you. White balance with one light source, while shooting in RAW, is pretty easy to deal with in post production in the case that your camera didn’t get it right the first time. Lightroom, and many other programs, offer some preset situations and settings (daylight, shade, tungsten, etc…). Click a button and you’re done.
What about when the scene includes two different light sources? In this post we’ll take a look at how to adjust settings when a scene contains both indoor incandescent light and outside, overcast light. While this example is finite, it can be used in a variety of light combinations with a few tweaks.
This photo was taken at the set of the Marty Riemer Show, a podcast on which I appeared earlier this month as a guest talking about giving up the corporate world for the freelance traveling/photography life. This was my first time in a studio of this sort (in his basement) and I wanted to get some shots showing how things went together. As you can see, there are strong incandescent lights overhead in cans and then light from a gray Seattle day flooding in from windows. This image is the original and how the camera picked up the scene on Auto White Balance. The only thing I have adjusted for at this point is the lens correct as it was shot at 10mm.
The camera chose ISO 1000, f/3.5, 1/15 and a temperature setting of 4450K. This is slightly higher than the standard range for an incandescent light bulb, which is between 2700-3300K. The first task is to pick the dominant light source (incandescent) and bring the temperature closer to that range. For me, that setting was 3250K.
Now I want to cut out the blue colorcast from the windows. In this case, I lower the Blue Saturation to -38.
This is enough to remove a fair amount of the colorcast while not effecting the scene too much. The blue on the screen suffers just a bit and much more saturation loss would leave it white.
The problem for me at this point, is Marty has better skin tones than this image represents. Simply reducing the temperature and removing some blue is not enough and only subtracts from the image. To make these next adjustments I have found it is easier to go overboard. My next step is to jack the saturation up to +100.
This overblown version lets me see just how much yellow and orange colorcast is left from the incandescent lights. It’s time to fine tune. First I drop the Yellow Saturation down to -67 to remove a some of the colorcast. Second, the Orange Saturation is dropped to -21 as it is a major component in incandescent light.
Lastly, I bring the overall Saturation back to +57 to keep some of the warmth in Marty’s skin tones.
Had I gone all the way back to a Saturation of 0, the scene is lifeless and anemic.
From here, other adjustments can be made to freshen up the photo, but I’ll stop at this point as this post is only about trying to get the most from two sources of light. While this technique will not work in every instance, it is handy for photos when a second light sources is seeping its way into your enjoyment of the image.