Lesson 2: Understanding Color
(with a forward on the coronavirus by Megan Rayo)
It's a scary world out there right now, Beauties.
My heart is with all the solopreneurs and beauty service brands that have had to close their doors in the name of public health & safety. I commend everyone for making these sacrifices. I also cling to the knowledge that this moment in time for our lives and our businesses will be temporary.
I admit I haven't really known what to do in a time like this. My sweet little media agency came to a screeching halt, and it felt like the rad baby biz I was growing got a bad case of Covid-19 itself.
I've cried, blamed, complained, prayed, worried endlessly, and lost sleep. I've wrestled with fear of the unknown, financial anxiety, pride, panic, helplessness, and my partner had emergency surgery to top it all off 😭
This week feels better though. Call it a reverse case of The Mondays.
And if I've learned anything so far, it's that I'm in the right profession. I LOVE what I do, and I have missed taking on media projects, shooting videos and taking photos for other women-owned businesses so that I can make a positive impact on their brands.
For me, the best way to cope with the unknown has been learning new skills and improving old ones. I'm a person that finds comfort in responsibility, and so having daily "lessons"online in my areas of expertise has left me feeling more prepared for the future.
With all the craziness, I had neglected this series that I started out of my own love of learning. It's time to get this train back on track!
The goal of Electric Beauty Photography School was to share simple and effective 'photography for business' tips that anyone with a smart phone can apply. I know this community will come back swingin' when all this corona business is over with, and I hope these little educational posts bring you something useful.
So let's get to it!
Today we're going to discuss an important factor when it comes to understanding photography for your business and photo editing: COLOR.
In photography, color is understood through a temperature spectrum, from warm to cold, as expressed in Kelvins.
Kelvins are the unit of measurement that express the absolute temperature of a color space.
If your eyes just glazed over reading that last sentence, think about it this way:
Every room you walk into, every space you inhabit, has a color temperature/number.
An office at Dunder Mifflin with fluorescent overhead lighting is 4200 K (kelvins).
A cigar lounge with warm, yellow lamps is 3600 K.
Your backyard at 12pm is 5600 K.
Human eyes naturally adjust for color in every space that we enter, so that whites always look white. However, cameras need a little help.
'Color cast' is the term used when you can tell a photo hasn't been adjusted properly for temperature. A picture of snow that looks blue instead of white means the photo has a cool or blue color cast. A picture of a candlelit birthday cake with yellowish frosting instead of white frosting means the photo has a yellow or warm color cast.
How can you detect color cast? Look at the whites!
Mastering color temperature is all about beating the problems of color cast, especially when it comes to skin tones.
Since beauty professionals work with real human clients with real human skin, capturing images of people with the proper color settings is all the more important!
Professional cameras allow photographers to adjust their color temperature through settings. You've probably seen these "cheat" settings if you've played with any sort of camera at all: Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Flash, etc.
All of those settings are found in the "White Balance" menu of a camera, with the option to input custom color temperatures, as well as a full on Auto setting where the camera guesses the color temperature of the space you're in for you.
If you're an amateur photographer looking to take photos of your business, shooting on Auto white balance will serve you well if you're only taking one or two photos.
The reason you shouldn't leave your white balance on Auto is that the camera will slightly change temperatures for each photo you take, because the Auto setting is not constant. This makes each of your photos a slightly different color and makes editing your photos for consistency a pain in the bum bum 🍑
If you want to take the next step in achieving more professional images, the best approach is to manually set your color temperature. That way, all your images will be consistent when you edit or post them. You could also control whether you want your photos to appear a little warmer or a little cooler (following the tone of your brand of course!)
But Megan, I'm using my iPhone to take pictures, not an actual camera! I don't need to know anything about kelvins or white balance or anything like that.
You're absolutely right, dear reader.
Smart phones have amazing auto detection for color temperature these days, and most phone cameras don't allow you to change the white balance before you take a picture anyways.
In the rare case though that your smart phone picture has a funky color cast, you should now be able to tell (look at the whites!) and you can adjust the color by editing certain settings within your photo app like "warmth" and "tint."
We've just skimmed the surface on understanding color for photography, however the point of this series is not to overwhelm you 🙀but provide you with some basic understanding.
A FANTASTIC resource for understanding more about color is this handy website called Happy Hues. While this website goes more into playing with color design and explaining color psychology, I appreciate the Color Terminology section found in the middle and encourage you all to check it out!
Any questions about what you've learned so far? Contact me (Megan!) with all your photography questions & inquiries via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week we will be touching on a key component of professional looking photography: depth of field!
Megan Rayo has been deep into video production since 2012 when she was an intern for E! Entertainment and once shared an elevator ride with Kim Kardashian. She moved to Portland OR to find more meaningful work and started Electric Beauty Productions after her esthetician mama asked her to make some treatment videos for her medspa. She gets fired up about all things photo/video, her wife's homemade flautas, The Bachelor franchise, and helping other women entrepreneurs level up in life and business.