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Guide to colored lighting for photography

Colored lighting for photography can be achieved by using color-changing LEDs or color gels. It helps create the mood, build the atmosphere, or add unique effects to the images. Color-changing LEDs provides more benefits for photography and are more cost-effective in the long run. You can use color lighting to illuminate the white background to create various backgrounds without investing in many physical background. It can also be used to illuminate the subject. Read on to get detailed information.

What are color changing lights for photography and how do it work?

As the name suggests, color changing lights are studio light fixtures, bulbs, projectors, or any other device that can change colors. The changeable lighting colors allow you to adjust them to fit the mood you want to create. The technology that powers them lets you to select illumination colors from anywhere in the rainbow. They are usually called “RGB lights”.

RGB lighting mixes the colors red, blue, and green – the "RGB" in "RGB lights" – to produce wonderful lighting colors. This LED technology is set to change and mix colors based on the option you make on the included remote, pressing the correct button, or via an app if it is Bluetooth® or WiFi enabled. These three colors, believe it or not, can emit up to 16 million distinct hues across the rainbow. Keep in mind, however, that just because they can generate 16 million colors does not mean that all can. You should check the manual to know how many colors are available.

Colored LED lights for photography: What are the differences from color gel light?

In general, there are two common ways to have colored lighting for photography. One is by using RGB LED lights and the other is by covering gels on the light sources.

How they work to change colors is the key difference.

Color gel photography lighting is achieved by covering a white light source with gel filters. These thin sheets of heat-resistant material allow the lighting to pass through and change the color of the output.

Colored LED light, or RGB LED, is a fixture with an additive color system, which consists of Red, Green, and Blue. It mixes these colors together to create colored illumination. Some have physical red, green, and blue LEDs in them and use different numbers of LEDs to create the final color. Others make use of programmed color systems without physical LEDs of the aforementioned three colors.

Colored LED lights provide better color consistency.

RGB lights can provide consistent color lighting with the same setting. There are advanced models featuring a CRI of 95 or above, which means great color reproduction. Both ensure high-quality illumination. However, if you use color gels of the same color from different manufacturers, you may find that the colors vary substantially.

They are more cost-effective than color gels.

Colored LED light uses less power and requires less maintenance. It has a quite long lifespan so you can use it for a long period without having to replace it regularly. In addition, one RGB LED light can produce a wide range of colored lighting for photography. You don’t have to buy many fixtures in various colors. For example, the COLBOR CL60R RGB LED light can create up 3,600,000 colors under HSI mode with adjustable saturation and hue ratings. All these work to save you money in the long run.

As for the color gels, though newer types of materials are used to lower the price, they still have a limited lifespan and have to be replaced on a regular basis. What’s more, you need to invest in a number of gels of different colors if you need various color lights in photography.

How to use colored lights for photography?

When using color light for photography, especially for portrait photography lighting, you can use it to illuminate the background for different background colors without having to invest in various backdrops. It is also advised to illuminate the subject with colored lighting to get creative images. Besides these two common uses, there are also some tips for you to better master colors in photography.

Illuminate backgrounds with the color you want

Building up a collection of diverse color backdrops can be time-consuming and necessitates extra storage space. Setting up some RGB LED lights in front of a white background is a wonderful approach to get around this. Simply select the desired color, and presto! You now have an alternative color backdrop! You may also play about with the location and modifiers you use to balance out the light for perfect backgrounds.

Another amazing feature that color chaning studio light offers is the ability to cycle among several colors slowly (or at any speed you like). This is a simple method to provide your clients with more options for photography backdrops.
This is achieved by pressing a few buttons or setting up via an app. You don’t have to stop the photo shooting to take down a background and put another up.

Make color lighting fall on the subject for creative results

Another way to make your work stand out is to directly apply color to your subject. This approach differs greatly from the conventional lighting used by 95% of portrait photographers, and the options are limitless. Some color tones seem better on the face than others, but that doesn't indicate something is wrong.
Colors can be mixed and matched as needed. Experiment. There is no "wrong" way in color photography.

Follow some basic rules to avoid common mistakes

Here are some general tips that you can follow when setting up colored lighting for photography.

  • Pale hues should be used for acting-area illumination (front lighting).
  • Deep hues can be used for side- or back-lighting, as well as unique effects.
  • Yellows and oranges are "warm" hues that are appropriate for bright days or cheerful occasions.
  • Pale blues are "cold" hues that are appropriate for less cheerful occasions.
  • Lavenders are "neutral" colors, meaning they can look warm or cool depending on the other colors in use.
  • Green should not be utilized as a front light (unless you're illuminating a witch or a villain in a pantomime).
  • When lighting the same room from two sides, use slightly varied (or even contrasting warm and cool) hues to create interest and make the lighting appear more dimensional.
  • Color has a distinct effect on darker skin tones. Lavenders and pinks complement dark complexion better than straw and yellow.

Although these are some basic rules in color photography, you can experiment with different colors to create the special effects you like. Nothing is definitely right or wrong in photography.