Mixed lighting in filmmaking and photography typically coincides with sweat, fear and nervous ticks. If you don't know what to do, you'll find yourself spending long nights at the computer attempting to figure out the right tint to add or subtract in order to make the scene look natural. In this post, we cover 4 solutions to try when you find yourself in one of these sticky situations!
If you want to learn about white balance and color temperature before reading this article, check out our blog post:
Understanding White Balance & Color Temperature
1. Change out bulbs to match 1 color temperature
This may not be the most practical solution, but a simple way to fix mixed lighting in an office or home setting is to change the bulbs in light fixtures so they all match. As window light is always hard to change, unless you can eliminate it completely, carry extra daylight bulbs with you. A few hundred dollars worth of bulbs can save you immense amounts of time on set and in post.
2. Modify bulbs to match the main source of light
If changing out bulbs is too hard, perhaps changing their color temperature is a better solution. Using gels, you can change the color temperature of any light source. If you're working in a small office with fluorescent overheads and a big window, try taping colored gels over the fluorescent light fixtures to match daylight. If you are in a large office with tons of overhead lights as well as window light, cover the window with a blackout cloth and add fill lighting if needed.
Not sure what color temperature fill light you'll need for a job? Consider bi-color lights that will let you dial in a specific kelvin temperature like the Westcott Bi-Color LED 1x1 or 1x2 light, Kino Flo Celeb or Bowen LimeLight.
Gels are also a great tool to use in studio or on set to add pops of color where you wouldn't be able to easily in post. A filter kit, like this one from Rosco, is a great way to be able to see what different colors do to an image.
3. Light the entire scene
Sometimes the best way ensure you're getting the light you want is to get rid of all light sources and bring in your own. This may mean turning off lights and blocking windows to make sure you are in total control. When too many color temperatures are present, this is a good route to go. It will give you the ability use lighting gear of the same color temperature.
4. Embrace it and set a manual color temperature
Sometimes mixed lighting is an important part of a scene and it shouldn't be eliminated. An example is a city at night. The office lights are different from the street lights which are different from car lights. The best way to tackle this tricky situation is to go custom. Nothing says you can only choose tungsten, fluorescent or daylight white balances. Go into your cameras setting and dial in a manual color temperature until you find a look you like. It's helpful to find the largest light source and start your white balancing there.
Remember: The first rule of working with mixed light is "do not panic!". With these tips above, you'll be able to light the hardest of situations. Have you worked with mixed light before? Let us know in the comments below how you handled it.