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Street Light

Street lights have something in common with fluorescent lights, Both discharge energy (light) in narrow spectral bands and as a result the effect it has (colour temperature) on the camera’s digital sensor is often unpredictable.

The most common varieties of street lights are Sodium Vapour lights and Mercury Vapour lights. Sodium vapour lights, the most commonly found street lights, appear yellow to our eyes, and cast an orange tint on photographs. Mercury vapour lights appear blue to our eyes, and cast a green tint on photographs.

street light photography
Photo By Miss Jo

Photographs taken under street lamps have a distinct feel to them. As the light comes from a height, the shadows they produce resemble that of shadows in pictures shot during noon. Difference is, here the shot is taken in a dark environment.

Street lamps mostly have reflectors that point light downwards in an arc. This cone shape created by the light is more noticeable when there is fog, mist or smoke in the atmosphere. And street lamps are positioned in such a way that the distance between two lamps is adequately covered by the light cones. There are patches of darkness in between the lights.

street light photography
Photo By Chris JL

Apart from street lamps there are also other light sources like the light spilling out from shop windows. Usually light coming out from shop windows consist of an array of varied light sources. This could be used as a strong side light source with exciting effects for night time portraits.

Finally there is festival or decorative lights, those tiny little lights of different colours used to decorate could be used to create a nice bokeh effect in your photographs.

Photographing under Street Lights – Camera Settings

Sodium Vapour Lights – Use the light bulb white balance setting to compensate for the orange tint.

Mercury Vapour Lights - As there is no appropriate white balance icon for mercury vapour lights; it is recommended to use a custom white balance setting.

street lights
Photo By Andy Castro

As there will be a little tweaking of white balance and other settings to get the desired effect; it is recommended to shoot in RAW.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - Types of Light - Available Light - Neon Light

Related Reading

  1. Fluorescent Light
  2. Incandescent Light
  3. Candles Oil Lamps and Flames
  4. Effect of Location on Light
  5. Seasonal Quality of Light

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