The colour of light part 2 ~ Working with mixed light

Oct 18, 2009 | Location | 4 comments


The lights on Charlton house in this picture are of mixed type. On the left is a mercury vapour fitting and on the right is a high pressure sodium light. The intensity of the colour difference is far less noticeable to the naked eye than to a camera. This is because the light emitted by the lamps is non linear and has spikes of certain wavelengths. The man in the picture is lit with flash and the tungsten lights inside the building are clearly visible too. The camera white balance was set to 'Daylight' at 5600K.

Read part one of this two part feature article here.


The red light on Highclere castle was provided by a firework display. I used a splash of flash to light the wedding guests and exposed the shot for 11 seconds at f5.6. The white balance was 5600K as selected by the camera when a flash is connected. I love the fact the moon is in the frame.


There is a time of the day after sundown when the sky, whatever the weather, turns a deep blue and can be contrasted with the relatively warm glow of tungsten lights. This shot of overcast Ravello in Italy has three artificial light sources and daylight.


A simple blue/ yellow shot like this one taken at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London, is pleasing to the eye. The time of day not only affects the colour of the sky but it's relative brightness.


There are more light sources in this shot of the reception at Babington House than first meets the eye. The doorway on the right of the frame is lit by a low energy folded fluorescent bulb giving a slight green colour cast to that area. The top of the window on the right of frame shows the purple light from the up-lighter on the outside of the building. Notice too the same colour of up-lighter is on the chapel outside. Then there are candles as well as tungsten lights in the chandelier and of course that wonderful deep blue sky.


The horizontal light in the back of this shot at the Hempel Hotel in London is from a concealed warm white fluorescent tube. Candles and tungsten down lighters make up the rest of the warm light sources and blue LED cluster bulbs set in the floor provide the colour contrast.


This Champagne was on ice in a blue plastic hotel laundry trolley. I used my Speedlight off camera up against the outside of the plastic trolley and the flash went right through giving this shot it's wonderful colour. You can see the room chandelier reflected in the bottles.


I placed this wedding order of ceremony scroll at 90 degrees to an adjacent window to create the simple colour contrast with the candles. Just something as simple as this made the shot selected to be part of my clients album.


The tower was lit with high pressure sodium and I lit the tree with flash to make this firework shot at Leez Priory in Essex.


The whole village in the valley was illuminated as part of the Ravello festival in Italy. I love the reds and greens. Moments later the colours had switched to yellows and blues.

Please feel free to comment on your experiences of using mixed light or on the points raised in these two posts.


  1. James Dalby

    Just wanted to say that the shot with the scroll and the candles was a real eye-opener for me.
    I have always thought of different colour temperatures as a problem and tried to balance everything to one temperature.
    It’s never occurred to me that i could use different temperatures to my advantage, am off to experiment right now with tungsten and my speedlite!

    • damien

      Hi James, Don’t forget you can shift white balance with gels too. Give Blaise a ring at the studio and we’ll get some gels and a Honl Speed Strap out to you with our compliments. Damien

  2. damien

    Hi Jon,

    A single frame although Marko may have added an extra firework burst. Yes, an SB-800 zoomed into 105mm, held in my left hand and pointed at the tree.


  3. Jon Allen

    Hi Damien
    May I ask if the Leez Priory shot was a single frame or a multiple exposure? also was the flash off camera.

    Warmest regards



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