Color Temperature

Mikio Hasui

Along with my light meter, my camera bag of 10 years ago contained a color temperature meter without fail. At the time film photography was the mainstream, to shoot without determining the color temperature was a fatal mistake. The color temperature was measured with a color meter and then adjusted with the use of a gelatin filter. They were the rudiments to get the correct color that was seen and felt by a photographer onto film.

Color temperature is the temperature of the light, so warm color light is lower in temperature whereas cold color light is on the higher end of the scale. I want to look at each of these fundamentals further, so I will go beyond what I just covered.

We are in the digital generation now. Even if you shoot without placing a filter on the lens, it is possible to freely adjust and modify the color temperature in post-production. It is because of this you can instead focus on shooting without the need of a color meter. Make sure you always take a shot with a gray card after shooting as that acts as a base to deduce the correct white balance in RAW.

However an impressive image is not defined by having the correct color temperature in photography. With a little less color temperature, a beautiful evening sunset can become a more dramatic image, or if you would rather increase the color temperature setting, the orange and pink of the sunset can be finished in a somewhat cool and objective color. It is these adjustments post-shooting that a creator relishes in photography.

In works where the shooter wants their feelings to be known, there have been many occasions where a rather excessive use of color temperature would exaggerate the scene. It is apt to say they become a clichéd image with the monotony of a picture postcard. However, I always do the opposite by making minor adjustments to the color temperature to have color that holds back on feelings. I feel that adds objectivity or modernity to the image and it is more a contemporary form of expression.

To what degree should this feeling be extracted? This is an issue that is of deep interest to us. The consideration of balance between objectivity and subjectivity within a photograph is a constant theme in photographic art.

For those people who set the color temperature to automatic, give it a try in manual instead. I reckon the unexpected change in the image would excite you.

We were not able to adjust the color of our image post-production in the age of film, so this adjustment of color temperature in digital opens up new possibilities. To take a picture then think about it later is one of the things brought about by digital in this new age of photography.

Mikio Hasui


Born in Tokyo in 1955
Starts his career as an art director, then moves into photography. Became known with the portraits announced in the cultural editorial scenes. Continues to expand the range of expression.

2009 National Library of France “PEACE LAND”
2010 National Library of France “17photos, 17syllables”

2013 solo exhibition, “IMAGINE IN THE LIGHT” COMME des GARCONS BLACK SHOP, Berlin
2014 group exhibition, “Two Mountains” WHITEBOX Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2017 group exhibition, “PHOTOGRAPHY NOW” THE BRICK LANE GALLERY, London」

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