In this article I am going to talk about light! Forget the cameras, forget the action, without getting the lighting right, one may as well pack up and not bother.

Lighting is measured by temperature using the Kelvin scale. For example, daylight, or the sun, is generally measured at around 5600k (Kelvin) when shining at or around noon. The brightness and warmth can be dictated by the cloud, mist, fog, time of day or year and so on.

This temperature is often reproduced with “day-light” bulbs and lights that emit a colour temperature greater than 5000k. These lights are typically used in studios on video lights and strobes or flash guns. The temperature hue of this is known as a blueish-white tone.

Depending upon the situation, the subject matter or your brand, will dictate the Kelvin rating that you wish to use. This is also where shooting in RAW is advantageous. If you use the RAW mode on your camera you will be able to adjust the kelvin rating when you edit your images. If you shoot in .jpg format, whatever you set on your camera, this is more or less what you will end up with.

The ratings on many cameras relate to the symbols that indicate the sun, shade, cloud, tungsten lights, fluorescent lights etc…

A rough guide to Kelvin lighting temperatures is listed below:

  • 1000-2000 K Candlelight
  • 2500-3500 K Tungsten Bulb (household variety)
  • 3000-4000 K Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
  • 4000-5000 K Fluorescent Lamps
  • 5000-5500 K Electronic Flash
  • 5000-6500 K Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
  • 6500-8000 K Moderately Overcast Sky
  • 9000-10000 K Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

These are commonly shown with symbols under the section of your camera that is often termed as White Balance. The practical meaning of these symbols can be determined below.

  • Auto/AWB – The camera makes a best guess on a shot-by-shot basis.
  • Tungsten – This mode cools down the colours in photos.
  • Fluorescent – This enables the camera to compensate for the colder light of fluorescent tubes and the camera will warm up your shots.
  • Daylight/Sunny – This sets things to fairly ‘normal’ settings.
  • Cloudy – This mode generally warms things up a little more than the Daylight mode.
  • Flash – The flash of a camera and strobe lights can be quite cool and you will find that this mode warms up your shots a touch.
  • Shade – The light in shade is generally a cooler hue than when shooting in direct sunlight and this mode will warm things up a tad.

To understand these settings takes time and practice, but, it is worth getting a handle on these settings as your resulting images will be improved when you start to deploy the correct White Balance settings for your images.

One of my specialisms is shooting at event and trade shows, in particular tech shows. This is a nightmare for the uninitiated and the inexperienced.

I cannot emphasise this enough. The only way that this can be achieved is to shoot in RAW format. Furthermore, the level of lighting is always low. One cannot use a flash to interrupt, for example, gamers competing with one another and momentarily blinding them causing them to lose a game and possibly a valuable monetary reward; or, your flash interrupting a keynote speaker at a product launch with your flash, unless one is the appointed photographer.

Sometimes less is more. At many trade shows using a flash can create lights and distortions in an image. In the shot above, this is a great modern product that has clinical lines, but, a great deal of delicacy. Blowing out the white and silver is degrading to the shot of this amazing product. I had little light above this product. I set the camera on a tripod, I used a slightly longer exposure than one that I can keep still by hand holding the camera, and the White Balance was guessed at as being tungsten. The reality is that there were skylights about 60′ above me letting in some light, with fluorescent lights hanging below this and they were positioned about 20′ above the stand.

I also used a 90mm macro lens for this shot. to ensure that even the small lettering was in focus and readable. When editing, I used a variety of techniques and software to eliminate noise and make the silver ping whilst maintaining a smooth texture on the wood.

Having a variety of Kelvin temperatures hitting your shot is normal for a lot of indoor photography. Learning how to adjust your settings on your camera, use the settings well, understanding ISO, shutter and aperture settings will help you to understand how to capture better shots.

As well as learning and understanding the Kelvin ratings, knowledge of ISO settings, and how to edit images to reduce what is known as noise is also a key task when you are producing high quality imagery for your show. I use between 2 – 5 pieces of software for each and every image that I produce for my clients. Using the right software and techniques will help you to produce those stunning images that tell a story.

Get out there, understand your Kelvin White Balance settings, and start to produce some great images that reflect your brand and message.