Color Temperature

I find that a lot of people don’t quite understand what color temperature is or why there are even settings for it.

The explanation is reasonably straight forward.  It is a subject a photographer should understand and be able to manage.

The simplest place to start is thinking about the rainbow you see in the sky.  This is a prismatic effect of sunlight on water droplets in the air and shows a spectrum of colors from the sun in the same way you would see a spectrum of colors from a prism created from a beam of sunlight.  They key point here is that sunlight contains all of the colors of the rainbow, we need not get into the physics of how the light is displayed – just understand that sunlight has a rainbow of colors.

Now, the next thing to understand is that if you were to look at the colors that make up a tungsten or fluorescent light, or that of the light from your xenon strobe as broken up through the same prism – you would see that the color makeup of each of these is different.  Each of the lights has a different color temperatures – or different quality of light.  The definition of the color temperature is that of the aggregate color given off from a radiator at different temperatures.  Fee free to read more about it in Wiki, but the idea is that different light sources have different color qualities.

Why do you care?

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