Photography Course: Color Balance and Highlight

Color balance and highlights are two of the most important aspects of photography and are essential for achieving the desired aesthetic. Color balance is the process of adjusting the colors in an image to produce a more accurate representation of what was seen in real life. Highlights are the brightest parts of the image, and how they are handled can determine the overall look and feel of the photo. Understanding how these two elements work together is critical for creating beautiful images.

What is Color Balance?

Color balance is the process of making sure that the colors in an image are accurate and true to life. This is done by adjusting the tone and saturation of each color. Proper color balance will make the colors in an image appear more realistic. It is important to note that the colors in a photograph may not always match the colors you saw in real life. This is usually due to the different lighting conditions and the camera's settings.

When adjusting color balance, it is important to consider the type of light source and the color temperature of the environment. Different light sources can produce different colors, and the color temperature can affect how colors appear in the image. For example, warm light sources (such as the sun) will make colors appear more yellow, while cool light sources (such as fluorescent lights) will make colors appear more blue.

What are Highlights?

Highlights are the brightest parts of an image. They are usually areas where light is reflecting off of a surface, such as a shiny object or a bright light source. Highlights can be either natural or artificial, depending on the type of light source used to illuminate the scene.

Highlights can be used to draw attention to certain parts of the image, or to create a sense of drama and atmosphere. They can also be used to emphasize texture and shape. Properly handling highlights is important for creating a balanced image and getting the desired look.

How to Achieve Proper Color Balance and Highlights

Achieving proper color balance and highlights in photography can be tricky, but there are a few key steps that can help.

1. Use the right light source. The type of light source used to illuminate the scene can have a big impact on the colors and highlights. Natural light is usually the best choice, as it is more consistent and often produces the most accurate colors. It is also important to consider the color temperature of the light source.

2. Adjust the white balance. The white balance setting on your camera determines how colors appear in the image. Adjusting the white balance is a great way to achieve accurate colors and highlights.

3. Use the exposure triangle. The exposure triangle is a helpful tool for determining the correct exposure for a scene. It involves adjusting the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to get the desired look.

4. Adjust the highlights. Adjusting the highlights in an image can help to create a more balanced image. Highlight clipping can be used to reduce the intensity of the brightest areas of the image, while adjust the midtones can help to create more contrast.

Color balance and highlights are two of the most important aspects of photography. Properly handling these elements is essential for achieving the desired look and feel in an image. Understanding the basics of color balance and highlights is the first step towards creating beautiful photographs.

This process of creating color symmetry or highlights within a photograph is a great way to add an interesting element to your photograph. As mentioned earlier, colors such as red, orange and yellow are considered warm colors where purples and blues would be considered cool colors. Therefore if you are trying to create a feeling of coolness in your photography you should find areas that have substantial blue influence.

However, it is also important to note that a photography which is 50% warm colors and 50% cool colors will seem neither cold nor warm. The opposing forces will balance each other out and the photograph will appear neutral. However, if you had a photograph and it was 90% cool and 10% warm it would be called creating a cool photography with warm highlights. Often viewers find these pictures with added cool or warm highlights very appealing to the eye.

The following photograph is great because it limits the number of colors in the photography to a handful with only two colors making up the majority of the shot (orange and blue). Because of the color simplicity of the shot, it's very easy for the human eye to look at. However, notice that the warm colors take up about 50% of the space and the cool colors take up the other 50% of the space. The result is that the picture looks neither cool nor warm.

White Balance in Photography

Now let's look at another example using a photograph which used predominantly cool colors with a smaller percentage of warm colors creating what we now is a highlighted look.

Example of White Balance in Photography

White Balance In Photography

See also:
Color & Perspective
Color Simplicity
Color Tinting & Shading In Photography
Analogous Colors
Complementary Colors
Color Wheel
Color Psychology In Photography
Monochromatic Photography