What is Kelvin and How Do I Use It? - secondshootersociety.com

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we're michelle
& Kelsie

We're best friends, business partners and completely obsessed with Bath and Body Works Candles. We LOVE photographing weddings and can't wait to teach you #allthethings we've learned over the years!

What is Kelvin and How Do I Use It?

Ever wonder why your white balance never looks quite right? You set your camera to auto, or the predetermined settings based on lighting conditions, and it still looks too yellow or too blue for your style. The beauty of most DSLRs is that you have the ability to control the exact white balance in your camera by using what’s called Kelvin. Kelvin is one of the best ways to manually control the white balance in your camera. Here a few reasons why we LOVE using it!

  1. Sometimes the auto white balance settings just don’t cut it! For example, the “shade” setting always seems too warm for our styles!
  2. If you don’t use a gray card or an expo disk to set your exposure, this is a better way to control the colors in your image so that you have an almost perfect white balance in-camera.
  3. Using Kelvin cuts down on your post-processing time and allows you to spend less time editing behind a computer.

There are certain lighting situations that are so complex that you just need to manually tweak the white balance in your camera to get it just right. By getting the white balance just perfect in-camera, you are able to avoid making those adjustments in post-processing.

To put it simply, Kelvin is a measurement of temperature. Photographers use the Kelvin scale to control the color and temperature (yellow or blue) of their images. If you edit your images in Lightroom, Kelvin allows you to control the yellow/blue slider in-camera. The temperature scale ranges from 1000-10,000. The warmer the light the lower the kelvin number you want to set your camera.

For example, sunlight appears very “blue” compared to candlelight, which appears very orange. Fluorescent light (and most other indoor lighting) falls somewhere in between. If you have ever tried using your camera in “Kelvin” white balance mode, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about! The white balance of a bare flash is around 5500 Kelvin, or about the same as natural light outdoors. Below you’ll find a graphic of the Kelvin scale. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you try out Kelvin:

  1. Practice makes perfect! Make sure you practice on a session or two before using Kelvin on a wedding.
  2. Learn the scale! Remember that lower numbers means that the image will be cooler.
  3. Shoot in RAW! We ALWAYS shoot in raw because there is so much more data captured in the image, so it’s easier to correct mistakes (like setting your kelvin to the wrong end of the scale!).

We hope that this makes shooting in Kelvin seem a little less complicated and scary. If you’re interested in learning more about how to control all of the different components of manual mode, check out our manual mode guide that gives you a deep dive into mastering all of the settings!

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