Why Does My Lighting Look Orange On Camera? – Color Temperature 101

When working with lighting and video you’ll find that it can be very tricky to not get everything to look so orange.  What may look fine to your eye, can often look “tinted” once it’s inside the camera.

But why does it look like that on camera and what causes it? This is where Color Temperature comes in.

We’ll review the basics of color temperature and a couple of ways you can improve the lighting for your camera.

Color Temperature

Every light source has a given Color Temperature.  The color temperature tells us how “warm” or “cool” the light makes things look as they are illuminated.  It could be anywhere from a low temperature similar to candlelight, all the way up to a blue-sky white color.  Both colors are white, but in different ways, and it matters when you set up the camera.

Unlike our eyes, which automatically adjust to different color temperatures, the camera needs to be set to match the color temperature of your main stage lighting so that the lighting looks right.

The low-temperature color that is similar to candlelight is roughly 1500k, in the middle the color temperature is similar to daylight at 5600k, and the highest being the 9000k that looks quite blue….at least when you compare it to something lower!

The Low Color temperature ranges from 1500k to 2700k are considered the Warm Color Temps. The Cold Color Temps range from the 5600k to 9000k.

How to Set the Color Temperature for Your Stage

When working with multiple light sources, the lights on stage will most likely have varied color temperatures.

You may have incandescent lights at 2700-3000k, arc-lamp moving lights at 5000k and LED lights that may be even higher.  Add to that any screens on stage, because they are a source of light that the camera sees too!

This makes it more of a challenge for your camera to choose which light temperature it’s going to see.  If left to “automatic”, your camera will be all over the place (not good!), but you also don’t want to dial it in wrong either.

For example: Let’s say your backdrop is some incandescent lights with the color temperature of 2700k but you also have some daylight coming in with the color temperature of 5600k. Your camera’s “white balance” is set for the color temperature of 2700k which helps the light behind the performers appear to be white. But that 5600k daylight that is coming in looks very blue now.

But, if you flip it the other way, and set the camera to 5600k, then the incandescent lights look overly-orange in the background.  Which do you choose?

The point?  Unlike our eyes, which are very forgiving to differences in color temperature, the camera is not.  It is best to get all of your color temperatures consistent across your stage if at all possible!  Then, all you have to do is set the camera to match the color from your lights, and it’ll look great every time!

Every set up is different, but the key is setting a White Balance and focusing in on what you want to look good on camera.  And usually, that’s the front lighting!

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