Photography Cheet Sheet: The Color Temperature Scale Explained

All you need to know about color temperature and its relationship with white balance summarized in one handy cheat sheet.

White balance is one of the crucial elements you have to work with to ensure accurate colors in your photos. To be able to do this, you have to know how to use the color temperature scale. Whether you’re just discovering color temperature in photography or looking for a better understanding of it, we’re sure this infographic by Digital Camera World will serve as a quick reference for you.

In their how-to article for Tech Radar, Digital Camera World simply explained color temperature as the individual color produced by a light source. This varies from red to blue. Sunsets, candles, and tungsten bulbs produce reddish light that makes photos look warm, while bright blue skies give off blue light that makes the scenes appear cool. Typically measured in Kelvin, cool colors like blue and white are usually at 7000K and above, while warmer colors like red and orange are at around 1000K to 2000K. While that’s fairly easy to understand and remember, it may sound complicated once you apply it to setting your camera’s white balance when you shoot.

The infographic above shows the color temperature scale and where the most commonly used white balance settings lie within it. It also includes the common shooting and lighting conditions such as sunrise or sunset, flash, and an overcast sky. You may find it sufficient to use the Auto White Balance setting of your camera when shooting typical scenes, but keep in mind that it only works accurately in a limited color temperature range. This is why it’s advisable to use your camera’s white balance presets whenever possible. You’ll be able to get an idea when to use which preset through this cheat sheet.

Choosing the right white balance setting for the scene you’re shooting will ensure accurate colors in your photos. In case you forgot to set it, you can still make adjustments when you edit your RAW snaps in post later. Once you’re ready to experiment, you might want to see how shooting in a Daylight white balance setting can benefit your photography.