A Photographer’s Guide to Color Temperature

Pixel Magazine
The Coffeelicious
Published in
4 min readNov 15, 2016


This is Part 2 of a series on popular photographer tools by Polarr Photo Editor. Read Part 1 here.

Welcome back! Let’s talk about color temperature.

What is Color Temperature?

Color temperature is generally understood as the color of light.

But what is it, technically speaking? Color temperature is the temperature at which a black body — an object that fully absorbs all frequencies of light — would emit radiation of the same color as any given object.

Not a perfect black body; iron is emitting some radiation in the form of glowing light.

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). The higher the number, the “colder” or whiter the color of the light. The color of the light emitted roughly goes through a red — orange red — yellow — yellow white — white — blue and white gradual process.

Color temperature scale

From Wikipedia, here are the color temperatures of some typical light sources:

1700 K: Match light
1850 K: Candles
2800 K: Tungsten (incandescent) light
3000 k: Halogen and yellow fluorescent light
3350 K: Studio “CP” light
3400 K: Studio lamp, photo floodlight (not flash) and so on …
4100 K: Moonlight, light yellow fluorescent lamp
5000 K: Daylight
5500 K: Average daylight, electronic flash (varies by vendor)
5770 K: Effective solar temperature
6420 K: Xenon arc lamp
6500 K: The most common white light

Color Temperature and White Balance

One concept associated with color temperature is white balance. Correcting for white balance (WB) is the process of removing unsightly color casts. The human eye has an uncannily accurate mechanism for doing automatic color correction- even under light sources of different color temperature, we can very accurately judge what is white. Unfortunately, our cameras must be trained to do the same- to ensure that objects that appear white to the human eye come out as white in the photo.

Same photo, white balance adjusted

Color temperature tools

Using the color temperature tools in Polarr, we can adjust the screen color temperature, so that scene is more warm (yellow) or cold (blue). When we increase the value of color temperature, the screen will be warmer (yellow), when we reduce the color temperature value, the screen will be colder (blue).

Photos with and without color temperature correction, All screenshots in this tutorial are taken in Polarr Photo Editor
Photos with and without color temperature correction

These kinds of adjustments can alter the “read” of an image, from a cold, stark feeling, to a warm, comfortable feeling. Or or neutral level of color temperature adjustment can create a calm, passive feeling.

Color Temperature In Combination with the Tint Tool

Color temperature can be used effectively in combination with the Tint Tool to create a specific aesthetic. The color temperature tool can add yellow and blue to the picture, and the tint tool can add green and magenta to the picture. These two tools are usually used in combination to adjust the white balance of the picture and the color tone of the rendered picture.

When we increase the value of tone tool, we add magenta to the screen, and when we reduce the value of tone tool, we add green to the screen.

Effects of the Tone Tool

Understanding what color temperature is, and how it can be used on its own and in conjunction with the tone tool to create a specific visual emotion is very valuable for burgeoning professional photographers. We hope this guide was helpful for gaining clarity about these tools and terms.

This marks the end of this episode of our Photographer’s guide. See you soon next time and receive update by following Pixel Magazine.

Want to try this out yourself? Download Polarr Photo Editor here. Polarr is available on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Chrome, and even online!



Pixel Magazine
The Coffeelicious

A celebration of photography and art brought to you by Polarr. https://www.polarr.co.