Why I Shoot in Kelvin
Before Kelvin, I was choosing my white balance based off of the options my Canon camera gave me. If it was sunny, I used Daylight. If it overcast, I used Cloudy. And if I was inside… you get the idea. Then, a friend taught me how to use Kelvin, everything changed for me and that’s why I shoot in Kelvin now!
At first, I was overwhelmed. This was about 5 or 6 years ago when I still wasn’t confident in my basic shooting abilities. The idea of adding in one more thing that I had to manually change myself, sounded mentally exhausting. And I didn’t know if I was capable of it. So, I practiced using Kelvin on my own before ever trying with paying clients. The goal is to be able to change the temperature in a shoot without even thinking. Similar to shooting in manual and changing your shutter speed, ISO, etc.
So, what is Kelvin?
When it comes to photography, Kelvin is how we measure the temperature of light. It gives you the chance to have full control over your white balance. I found Kelvin early on in my career and it’s been an incredible tool to achieve the white balance and skin tones that I want in my photos!
I will simplify it a bit! The higher the number = the warmer the photo. The lower the number = the cooler the photo. I went outside and took some photos to show you the difference in temperatures and what temperature I would choose!
The photo on the left is the warmest temperature my camera would allow me to choose and the photo on the right is the coolest. This is the difference between 10,000K and 2,500K at sunset!
Maybe you’re wondering… why can’t I just use Auto White Balance?
Auto white balance doesn’t equal correct white balance. It’s your camera’s best guess at what temperature your photo should be. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m smarter than my camera. That’s why I shoot in manual and not automatic. And I bet you’re smarter than your camera too! Why let your camera guess for you when you can be in complete control?
With auto white balance you usually have to adjust the white balance in every single photo while editing. It’s often inconsistent. With Kelvin, you won’t have to! You don’t even have to get the temperature exactly right in camera, just get it as close as you can! Then, when you edit, at least all the photos (in one specific area with the same lighting) will be at the same temperature. This will save you so much time and is the main reason why I shoot in Kelvin!
These photos below are showing you the difference between Auto White Balance and choosing the temperature myself using Kelvin! AWB is the photo on the left and it chose a temperature of 5750K. Even though I want the colors in my photos to be as close to real life as possible, if I had to lean a little more one way than another, I would want to lean a little warm! I chose the temperature of 6150K for the photo on the right. The difference is subtle, but it’s there!
Here’s one more example where the difference is a bit more noticeable! The lemon photo on the left was with AWB and the temperature is 4850K. The photo on the right was shot in Kelvin and I chose the temperature 7150K. Maybe it’s a preference thing, but I think the photo on the right has a bit more life in it!
Here are a few tips to getting started with using Kelvin!
- If you’re just starting out in photography and haven’t yet learned to shoot in Manual, I would master that first before adding Kelvin in the mix!
- Practice! Give yourself some grace while you’re learning. It can feel overwhelming, but keep going!
- Remember… the lower the number, the cooler the photo. And the higher the number, the warmer the photo!
- Assign a custom button on your camera to adjust your temperature quickly. The process of this will be different depending on the camera you use. You should be able to find a video on YouTube or an article for your specific camera brand!
- Shoot in RAW, choose your own temperature and then you’ll finally see how much easier editing can be for you!
Once I started getting more confident shooting in Kelvin, I used it in all my sessions! And I’ve never looked back! It saves me time in editing and helps me to achieve consistent coloring and skin tones in my photos. The more you do it, the easier it will get! And before you know it, you’ll be changing the white balance during sessions without even realizing that you’re doing it!