If you want to take your pieces of art to the next level, try playing around with color temperatures. It can make a surprising difference to the entirety of the piece.

It does not matter if you painting a picture, or taking a digital photograph-temperature comes into play. Color and temperature do not seem to have a direct relationship with each other, but light sources are often defined in terms of their color temperature.

In addition, the measurement of this is in Kelvin degrees. What does all this really mean?

Kelvin, like Fahrenheit and Centigrade, is a scale for measuring temperature. Zero degrees Kelvin corresponds to -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

The relationship between color and the Kelvin scale is derived from heating a “blackbody radiator” until it glows. The particular color seen at a specific temperature is the color temperature.

When the blackbody is hot enough and begins to emit light, it is dull red. As more heat is applied, it glows yellow, then white, and ultimately blue.

The colors radiating from the blackbody are correlated to colors we are familiar with in our daily lives. For instance, the ones emitted from a lamp in your living room is identical to the yellow-white glow when the blackbody radiator temperature is approximately 3200 degrees Kelvin.

When the heat rises to 5500 degrees, the quality of white light is identical to the color of the sun at midday. The bluish quality of twilight just before dark is similar to the color of the blackbody at about 12,000 degrees Kelvin.

These numbers are used when purchasing photographic strobe equipment and film. For example, the color of the light emitted by a flash is rated at 5500 degrees; it is designed to imitate noon daylight.

If the flash produces light that is 6000 degrees Kelvin, it has a slight bluish tinge. If it is rated at 4800 degrees, it is slightly warmer, or more yellowish, than white light.

Similarly, film is manufactured to give you accurate colors indoors with tungsten illumination balanced for 3200 degrees Kelvin. Daylight films are balanced for 5500 degrees Kelvin.

This means that they produce accurate colors during the middle of the day when the sun is overhead. Before the sun reaches its high point, the yellowish quality of the sunlight is less than 5500 degrees.

The same is true from late afternoon to sunset. During these times, daylight film reproduces a warmer, more yellow, image. During the middle of the day when a cloud cover has obscured the sun, some of the red and yellow wave lengths of light are absorbed by the minute water droplets of the clouds.

The end of the spectrum, the bluish wave lengths, pass through unimpeded. This is why daylight film produces scenics and outdoor portraits with a bluish cast even during midday.

Sometimes this can be very interesting artistically. If the cool tonality is unappealing to you, place a warming filter over the lens and the color balance will shift back toward a more acceptable value.

Twilight appears almost blue-purple on daylight film due to its extremely high Kelvin temperature. When cityscapes are photographed at twilight, the contrast between the lights of buildings and the cobalt blue sky is very dramatic.

Digital technology uses these same traditional concepts but with a new twist. You can simply adjust your white point to change the color balance.

For example, if you lower the white point to 3200, you are telling the camera that you want yellowish light to be shown as white noon-type daylight. This means that daylight and flash (5500K) will be bluish, and overcast conditions and shade (about 7500K) will be exceptionally blue.

When you shoot a film in lighting conditions that it was not designed for, interesting results await you. Tungsten-balanced films can be used with strobe units or during midday sunlight, but the balance will shift decidedly toward the blue end of the spectrum.

At twilight, the heavy blue shift is even more pronounced. In some situations, this deep, saturated blue can be very beautiful.

At sunrise and sunset, when the ambient light is golden yellow, tungsten film brings the color balance back to a more natural, middle-of-the-day look. Daylight films can be used indoors with the opposite effect.

No matter what you decide you like the most, the fun is in playing around with it. Now that you have a base knowledge about how it works, try finding some cool, new effects of your own!

Tommy Greene is an art salesman. He has been selling for more then 15 years. He recommends Greg Olsen Artist for high quality art pieces.

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Tommy Greene

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