Camera Filters for Color Balancing

The color qualities of color films are matched to the same standard that governs the rating of the color values of incandescent lamps and other similarly radiating light sources. This color temperature - as it is called - is expressed in the Kelvin temperature scale (˚K). Kelvin scale temperatures are equal to the heat temperature of the radiating body in degrees centigrade, now called Celsius (˚C), plus 273. Color temperature is basically defined as a measure which defines the color of a light source relative to the visual appearance of the light radiated by a theoretically perfect radiator, or blackbody, heated to incandescence.

If a film is to be used with a light source for which it is not balanced, it is necessary to do the needed color balancing on the film through the use of filters. Color balancing filters for use with color films have very specific color responses, and are made to be used with only one basic color balance of light per film type.

Below are the types of filters being use commonly for color balancing:


Color Conversion Filters

  • Color conversion filters for color balancing in photography is a group designed to take care of the common gross changes that occur when a color transparency film is used with an unsuitable light source.

  • There are three main types of spectral balance in color slide films: Daylight-type, Type A, and Type B. Color negative film can be assumed to be of Daylight sensitivity. If a Type A or B color film is used in sunlight without a filter, the scene will appear much too blue in the finished picture. A Color Conversion filter is needed to assure a natural appearance in the final slide. And the same is true of a Daylight-type film used with incandescent lighting, except that without the filter the scene will appear too orange.

Light-Balancing Filters

  • Light balancing filters is suitable for situation where the degree of color imbalance is less extreme but still in need of correction.

  • If the light source is nonstandard, it can be brought into balance with the standard color films by using a light-balancing filter of the 81 or 82 series. These are very pale yellowish in color (the 81 series), or pale bluish (the 82 series). An example of their use is where the light source was a desk lamp, rather than a photoflood bulb.

Color Compensation Filters

In critical color photography there is frequently a need for great care in balancing the light source to the film emulsion sensitivity as exactly as possible. In order to do this, color compensation filters (often called CC filters) are used. These come in six basic colors, and in a wide variety of densities. The colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, and blue. The first three are complementary to the second three, in the order given. In terms of wavelengths of light absorption:

  • cyan absorbs red

  • red absorbs blue and green

  • magenta absorbs green

  • green absorbs blue and red

  • yellow absorbs blue

  • blue absorbs red and green

Color compensation filters are usually seen in a series of standard calibrations. These run from .05 through .50, with density and color saturation increasing as the number grows larger. A color compensation filter of yellow color and a density of .40 is called a CC40Y, and so on.

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