How to reduce redness in night dslr photography

By Ian Middleton

Disclosure:

This website and its articles contain links and adverts. The adverts and some links, but not all, are affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small percentage of money, but at no extra cost to you. The price remains the same if you buy.

While reviewing my website stats one day, I saw that someone had searched for the phrase “how to reduce redness in night dslr photography” and thus landed on one of my pages here. Such is the nature of Google, it probably found my tutorial on photographing stars with dslr, which, regrettably, doesn’t include an answer to this poor web surfer’s question. Therefore, I decided to rectify this, and create a short tutorial on the subject.

Why it is red

Example of light pollution
ISO 200 , F5.6 , 30 secs , 53mm focal length – White Balance set to daylight
Quite simply put, redness in night photos is a result of three things:
  • Artificial light pollution from towns and cities.
  • Colour temperature
  • Incorrect white balance setting

 

All light has a colour temperature, measured in kelvin (K), which is why some light seems warmer and some colder. Typically, colour temperatures above 5000k look cooler (more blue), whereas temperatures below 5000K look warmer (more red).

Tungsten light, which is the kind of light source used in street and home lighting, is low in temperature (approx. 2700k). Although our eyes can automatically adjust to remove the redness from the low temperature, the camera cannot. So when shot under normal settings your camera records the red of the light pollution.

Film or digital sensors have to be balanced to match the colour temperature of the light source, in order to produce natural looking whites. Film is typically balanced for daylight (5000k) Film users photographing indoors had to buy special tungsten balanced film.

But digital users can now balance the temperature image by image by adjusting the “white balance” settings.

The image above was shot on the daylight setting, which is why there is too much red.

If you recognise the symbols on the left side of this chart, then you’ve already used the white balance settings, even if inadvertently. Although you can set your white balance manually to the exact temperature, this is more for advance users who want more precise settings. For most though, you simply need to set it to suit the conditions you are shooting in.

Setting your white balance for cities at night.

Here, the image was shot with the white balance set to “Daylight” The redness is a result of the colour temp of the camera being higher than that the source.

Example of light pollution

Here, the image was shot with the white balance set to “Tungsten” Now the redness has been reduced and the scene looks more natural.

Example of the tungsten white balance when photographing at night.

Setting your white balance for moonlit nights.

On moonlit nights however, you not only have the colour temperature of the artificial light to contend with, but the light temperature of the moonlight. Therefore, the best setting for moonlit nights is the “fluorescent” setting.

Example of light pollution when photographing at night.

In this case the best white balance setting for moonlit nights is the “fluorescent” setting.

Example of the fluorescent white balance when photographing at night.

Creative use of White Balance using your RAW converter

It’s always best to shoot in RAW, one of the many advantages of which is the ability to set or adjust the white balance during post processing. Not only does it give you more control and a finer adjustment than can be done in camera, but you can also use it for creative effect. Okay, so I hear all the purists crying (“it’s cheating, you are using a computer!”) But firstly, your digital camera is a computer, but most importantly, white balance is a software adjustment, whether it be in camera or during post processing).

The image below was originally shot on the daylight setting, and then changed to “shade”, which is 7500k. This has enhanced the red in the leaves (perfect for autumnal shots). However, be selective with this technique, as it only suits scenes which are predominantly red or brown, such as autumnal scenes.

Autumn scene on daylight white balance setting.
Shot on the daylight setting 5500k
Autumn scene on shady white balance setting.
Changed to “shade” 7500K

Use White Balance to bring out an otherwise dull sunset

Shot on the daylight setting 5500k
Changed to “shade” 7500K

My book

Learn Photography

For a more comprehensive look at photography, check out my book, available to buy at Amazon.

Shedding light on all the photography basics in one book.

Want to know how to take better photos? Well, first you need to master the basic techniques. Whether you are a complete beginner or an intermediate looking to improve your photography, this book is packed with photography techniques, tips and advice for beginners and intermediates.

All the camera functions and their effects explained.

View from Rantovše hill across to Sveti Tomaz nad Praprotnim (church of Saint Thomas) in the Skofja Loka hills, Slovenia.
Photography Tips

Shadows in Photography

When learning photography you’ll often hear the word “light” over and over again. But shadows in photography are equally important. See some examples here.

Read More »
close
SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER AND GET
25% OFF MY PRINTS & A FREE EBOOK

Subscribe and receive my regular newsletter to get the latest information about my workshops, new tutorials, videos, new photos and more.

All new subscribers get an exclusive 25% discount code off prints of my photos from my online shop plus a free download of my ebook: A Practical Guide to Photography. Code and download link will be emailed to you upon successful signup

I don’t spam! Read my privacy policy for more info.

Disclosure:

This website and its articles contain links and adverts. The adverts and some links, but not all, are affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small percentage of money, but at no extra cost to you. The price remains the same if you buy.

“As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases”

A practical guide to photography by Ian Middleton.
Buy my book

Shedding light on all the photography basics in one book.

Buy fine art photography prints: canvas, metal, framed, acrylic, wood and more.

Find a rental car with Discover Cars



Smugmug - 15% discount
15% discount off all new Smugmug accounts

Save 15% off any new SmugMug account when you click this banner. No coupon needed.