If there is more than one light source, they should be the same temperature, right?

If this isn't always the case, when should they be different?


Generally speaking yes. This makes it easier for your camera to define the correct colors. Normally you gain experience best by committing errors or by analyzing the errors of others. So, if you see an image that is too cold, the color temperature / white balance should be higher. If it's too warm, the color temperature should be lower.

If you have two different light sources, you must prioritize: Which part of your scene should have a neutral color temperature / white balance, which could be different.

And here are the creative exceptions: If you analyze movies or professional documentaries, you realize that there aren't many neutral, correctly white balanced shots. Because they look boring. So, if you only have different light types, why not use them to compose your scene. Just to give one example: If you compose a scene and want to present an actor or an interview partner in a comfortable mood, he can have some warm light in his face, and a colder light in the background.

  • Perhaps you could clarify this – you might have used the words "warm" and "cold" in two opposite meanings here, or at least said it in a way that might confuse people. Warm light, the yellowish kind characteristic for old incandescend bulbs, has in fact a lower color temperature than blueish, "cold" light from e.g. fluorescent tubes. — Also, I don't quite agree about using light sources of different temperature in the same scene; this can be used as an effect but usually just makes either of the objects look strange. Mar 2 '13 at 11:43
  • Yes, you're right. The whole color temperature system is confusing on first sight, because bluish light is in fact warmer than yellowish light, but appears colder. For example in this Colosseum picture ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_hour ) I estimate the blue sky to have a color temperature of above 8000 K, but the lights should be around 3000 K. This Colosseum picture is also an example that sometimes mixed light sources work together. Nobody wants the sky or the lights to appear white or grey.
    – Fred42vid
    Mar 2 '13 at 12:41

It depends entirely on what you are looking for. If you want an image that appears consistently lit, then you will want to have uniform light temperature. If however, you want to have some type of effect lighting, you will want to alter the lighting temperature.

Say for example you have a candle in the scene (or want to allude to a fire off-screen), or perhaps it's a sunny day outside the window. You can use lights of a different temperature and vary their intensity to achieve the desired look of shading with color after white balancing to your key light (the main wash you are using to light the scene).

  • So that means that you you want just one color temperature, you want to light the lights first and then WB. But if you want to add some effect with, say a candle, you set the WB first for the key light and the add the candle?
    – user17252
    Mar 3 '13 at 22:08
  • Yeah, though you may have to mess with the color of the key some to get the right tone. The dynamic range of sensors isn't comparable to that of the eye. In normally lighting, a candle may not make enough of a difference or lighting from a window may color the scene too intensely, but the procedure is still the same to set the white balance based on what you want to appear as a neutral grey/white and then add color from there as you want it to appear in the scene. Can't really do it any other way since white balancing could remove the color you are looking for.
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 4 '13 at 14:02

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