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October 26, 2010

Tuesday Tip

White balance....

By far my most F.A.Q. I get from photographers is.... 

"How do I achieve proper white balance?!" 

White Balance is a complicated topic, and one that I can't fully cover in my short and sweet Tuesday Tips, but here is what I do to achieve (what I consider) to be the proper white balance.  

Note:  I say "what I consider" because the correct white balance really is different to everyone.  Some people like warmer images and some like their images cooler.  It is a preference.

So let's quickly review:  

What is White Balance?    White balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts so that objects in your image that are white in real life, look white in your photo.  Here is an example...

This picture was taken on a very stormy day, in the evening.  

So what causes those icky color casts?  Well, several factors affect the color in your photos,  such as:

1.  Lighting conditions (cloudy, shade, sunny, indoor)
2.  Objects around you (Red building, green trees, etc...)
3.  White Balance setting in your camera

So how can you achieve the proper white balance?

1.  Use a gray card to set your custom white balance in your camera.  Here's a great tutorial.
2.  Be sure to properly expose your photograph (this will help a lot!)
3.  Learn how to understand and find good light (a must!)
4.  Shoot in RAW and use post processing to tweak the white balance.

I used to stress so much about white balance and which settings I should be using...until I started to nail my exposures in camera.  That, along with understanding the character and quality of light, has helped my white balance issues disappear! 

Now, I shoot in Auto White Balance (my camera does a good job in Auto, however some cameras do not) and correct any other white balance issues in Adobe Raw.  

A last little bit of advice:  Don't be afraid to walk away from a horrible color cast situation!  If someone asks you to take a picture of their baby in a bright red room with horrible light (baby = lobster) politely suggest moving somewhere else....then pat yourself on the back for avoiding a white balance nightmare.  

Till next time...


Julia Shinkle said...

Thank you for addressing this. I know for sure my Canon 40D shoots blue. I recently purchased a 5D and it shoots much warmer. I am going to have to look into the grey card. I have heard of this before and not used one. You have answered my question perfectly! Have a good one.

michelle said...

Yea- Mitch was in the Tuesday tip! I loved seeing his picture, and can't wait to see the others. No pressure.(hee- hee.) Thank you so much for driving over an hour one way, standing in the rain and wind and taking pictures of 4 BOYS. Thank you!!!

Jenny Esterbrook Photography said...

Wow, thanks so much for explained it so well and it was soooo helpful. This is something I truly needed :)

Abby said...

understanding white balance really made a HUGE difference in my pictures! THANKS