If you've been on plenty of Zoom calls like we have, you've likely noticed instances when your background looks yellow, but your face looks blue. This color imbalance happens because different light sources produce different color light that look unnatural when combined. These different hues are referred to as "color temperature" and measured in Kelvin. Ultimately, a shoot's color balance can make or break the footage. So you may be thinking, is white or yellow light better for videos? Here are our three tips for getting the right light color for your videos.
1) Daylight is 5400K
The standard light coming in through your window is blue in color, cold in tone, and measures about 5400K. Often referred to as "Daylight," this natural light will get even bluer (6000K or beyond) on cloudy days or in the shade. Essentially, when sun coverage increases, your camera will pick up colder, bluer tones. Regardless, when filming outside, it's imperative that you set your white balance to Daylight. On this setting, the camera will automatically add a yellow tint to the picture to counteract the blue tint coming from the sun. Many cameras even have a "cloudy" white balance setting, which adds even more warmth to a shot.
2) Household Lights are 3200K
Your standard incandescent bulb (traditionally referred to as Tungsten) is yellow in color, warm in tone, and measures about 3200K. When filming indoors with standard lightbulbs, make sure that your color balance is set to Tungsten (usually the lightbulb icon on the camera). This adds the necessary blue to your picture to neutralize the yellow tone produced by household lighting. Be careful--getting the right white balance can be slightly more difficult inside than outside. Modern lightbulbs can come in a variety of color temperatures. Fluorescent lights tend to have a green hue (think of that sickly hospital look in horror movies). LED light bulbs come in different temperatures with their own naming convention. "Soft White" is usually around 3000k, while "Cool White" is around 4000k. The key is to making sure all of your lightbulbs are the same. Check the box for Kelvin reading - especially when using light bulbs from different brands.
3) Make Sure Your Lights Match
One light temperature isn't necessarily better than any other. It is crucial, however, that you do not mix and match them. For indoor shoots, if you decide to go with Daylight lighting, all incandescent bulbs need to be turned off. If not, you'll get yellow spots. If you decide to go with indoor lighting, all windows must be blocked out to prevent any blue tones from tinting the shot. Thankfully, modern lighting has made this whole process easier with the ability to purchase lightbulbs for specific Kelvin temperatures. Daylight-balanced lightbulbs are available, which are perfect for indoor shoots in spaces with a lot of windows. If you want to get real fancy, we recommend Phillips Hue lightbulbs, which are what we use in our studio. These lights can be programmed to be any color you want! No matter what you choose, you just need to make sure that all your lights are the same color. So long as everything is in sync, your camera will white balance accordingly.
Do you have a specific video question? Schedule a free video analysis call at bit.ly/callawv