The Color of Open Shade in Close-Up Photographs - dummies

The Color of Open Shade in Close-Up Photographs

By Thomas Clark

Different types of natural daylight affect your scenes and subjects in various ways that you can harness in your macro and close-up photography. Open shade, or ambient light, is that which bounces around in the atmosphere and illuminates the blue sky.

This type of natural light is found in areas that are unaffected by the sun directly, such as the shady side of a building, or the shadow area under a tree. It has a more ambient effect on your subjects and scenes.

The sun sends red, green, and blue waves of light toward earth — all of which affect your subject when you photograph in direct sun. The particles in the sky reflect mainly the blue and green waves of light. This is why the sky is blue (or cyan, to be technical about it).

Because the sky is blue and is the main light source for open shade lighting, it produces a blue tint in photography. In the film days, photographers used a warming filter to balance the color of the light so that it appeared more like that of direct sun.

With your digital camera you can simply set your color balance to open shade mode and your images automatically are warmed up to compensate for the blue shift.

The photograph on the left was taken in open shade with the camera’s color balance set for daylight. The image on the right shows open shade with the camera’s color balance set accordingly. Notice how blue the scene appears in the image on the left, while in the other image the scene appears normal.


Both images: 100mm, 1/160, f/2.8, 400

Your camera picks up on the blue light more than your eyes because your brain compensates automatically for the shift. This is the same reason that taking off a pair of orange-tinted sunglasses causes everything to appear blue for a short period of time.

With the orange glasses on, your brain creates a blue shift to make things appear more natural. When you take off the glasses, the blue shift is obvious until your brain fixes the irregularity again to get rid of it.

Your digital camera can compensate for color shifts of all types, but you generally have to tell it to do so. Most digital cameras have an automatic color balance setting, but this setting is not always reliable. You’re better off recognizing the color of different lighting types and manually controlling your camera’s color balance.