What Is Color Temperature and How Does It Affect Video Lighting? 

Highlights – All light has a temperature and, as a result, a color. Different light sources produce light at different temperatures and thus colors; the color temperature of the sun changes throughout the day. Differences in light color can give your work a different feel and create odd color casts in your footage if you don’t account for them.

Have you ever noticed that when you go to buy replacement LED bulbs for your home, they come in “warm white,” “daylight,” or “bright white” varieties? These are some examples of various color temperatures

Color temperature is important in photography and filmmaking, as well as home lighting. You must understand it in order to achieve the desired color and feel in your footage. Choosing daylight color temperature, tungsten lights, or any other light source can have a significant impact on your work. Want to learn more, let’s begin.

What Is Color Temperature and How Does It Affect Video Lighting?

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What exactly is color temperature? 

The temperature of all light, measured in Kelvin (K), varies depending on its source. Cooler temperatures result in warmer-toned lighting. As the temperature rises, the color of light shifts from red to orange, then to yellow, and finally to blue. The bluest light is the brightest.

Match and candle flames have the lowest temperature, around 1,800 Kelvin (K), and the most intense red color. A tungsten or incandescent light has an orangey color and a temperature between 2,500 and 3,000K. 

With a temperature of around 4,000K, fluorescent lighting is more yellow. 

The color temperature of flash is typically between 5,000 and 5,500K, which is considered “neutral” and very similar to “daylight.”

Temperature control is common in modern LED studio lights. 

The temperature of sunlight varies depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. Golden hour light, for example, has a temperature of around 3,500K and a soft, warm glow. Around midday, sunlight will register between 5,500 and 6,000K. On a cloudy day, the temperature of the light will be around 7,000 K.

The temperature of light from a clear blue sky is around 10,000KMoonlight has a color temperature of 4,100K, making it ideal for night videography. 

It’s always a good idea to keep a color temperature chart on hand so you can be confident in your lighting choices.

What effect does color temperature have on your video? 

Color temperature can have an impact on your video in two ways. The first is the creative aspect, in which the color of light alters the mood of your scene. Then there’s the technical aspect, in which you need to manage the color temperature of your lights to ensure consistency across your scene.

From a creative standpoint, the temperature of the light you choose for your videos, as well as the type of lighting you choose, whether floods or backlighting, can give your work an entirely different feel. So you could choose something warmer and softer, or something colder and harder. 

Filming during the golden hours will provide your footage with a warm, soft glow that can feel positive, playful, or romantic. Combine this warmer tone with a diffusion filter for a floaty, dreamlike effect. Everything is a little more subtle than the TikTok red light effect! 

When you select a colder light, you may be implying a more clinical or industrial setting or something much harsher in tone.

If you’re not sure, the temperature of “neutral” light is around 5,500K. 

It is technically necessary to know the temperature of your lights in order to set an accurate white balance. Unfortunately, while our eyes are remarkably adept at adjusting for differences in color temperature and the impact on different colors, our cameras are not. 

Instead, they must be told what the temperature of the light in a scene is in order to achieve the correct white balance and deliver the desired lighting color. Without it, your footage may appear too blue, too orange, or with magenta or cyan casts.

Tungsten vs. daylight

The color temperature of tungsten lights is around 3,000K. The color temperature of daylight is approximately 5,500K. Tungsten lights’ warm orange glow is frequently associated with indoor lighting. The slightly cooler temperature of daylight lights, on the other hand, is associated with outdoor scenes.

If you’re debating between 3,000K and 5,500K for your YouTube lighting, know that there is no best color temperature for video lighting. Just keep in mind that everything is the same color temperature. 

Whether you choose cooler daylight temperatures or warmer tungsten lighting, if the scene is properly white balanced, it will all appear as “white” light. 

Traditionally, you would buy film based on the color temperature of your lights: tungsten or daylight. Of course, you can now adjust the white balance in-camera.

Selecting the best camera settings 

Choosing the proper camera settings is dependent on your goals. For example, if you want a consistent “white” light, you must take a few precautions.

  • You can use your cameras presets to set the white balance, but you’ll likely get better results if you either select the exact Kelvin for your lights or create a custom white balance using a grey card. 
  • Set all of your lights to the same color temperature if you’re using multiple lights, such as in a 3-point lighting setup. If you can’t control the temperature of each light individually, you can use gels to do so. 
  • If you’re shooting in natural light, make sure to re-set your white balance if the lighting changes. Remember that the color temperature of an overcast sky differs from that of a clear sky.

By using color correction filters or adjusting your camera’s white balance to the same temperature as your lights, you can capture a warmer or cooler light temperatureReduce the color temperature of your camera to be lower than the color temperature of your light source for a cool scene. You do the opposite for a warm scene. Increase your camera’s color temperature setting so that it is higher than the temperature of your lights.

There may be times when you want to use lights with varying color temperatures to achieve a specific effect. 

For example, you could use tungsten lights set to 3,000K to light the majority of a scene, but a backlight set to 5,500K to simulate sunlight coming through a window. Set your white balance to the temperature of the 5,500K backlight, and the 3,000K lights will cast a warm orange glow on your subject’s face. (If you set the white balance to tungsten, the backlight will be blueish.)

What Is Color Temperature and How Does It Affect Video Lighting

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Conclusion

Utilize color temperature to its full potential. It may feel like one more thing to accommodate at times, especially if you’re trying to organize lighting for a YouTube video in a hurry, but it’s extremely powerful. 

The color of light can influence how your audience reacts to your work: it can be soft and gentle, or harsh and detached. It is not a burden, but rather a tool. Just keep in mind to adjust your white balance as needed.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

What Is Color Temperature and How Does It Affect Video Lighting?

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