White Balance – Guide to better photos – Part 2

White Balance, what is that?

If you haven’t heard of White Balance, it means you probably haven’t read your Manual.  If you read in my last post, we discussed using Manual Mode to set the correct Exposure Level through the ISO, Aperture, and Shutter settings.  Well White Balance (WB) is something that is very important when you take a photo with a Digital Camera.

Have you ever taken a photo and the picture had a blue tint too it or it looked yellow or Red, and you don’t remember it looking that yellow or red or even blue when you took the picture.  Well that is because your eyes, automatically adjust to the available light and color correct based on how the brain works.  In a digital Camera though, it isn’t very smart.  It does try to guess how warm or cool the available light is, but it isn’t 100%.  I don’t even know if it is accurate 50% of the time.  So on your camera there is probably a button that says “WB” or a menu setting that says “White Balance”.  Some camera’s even have a dial that lets you set WB.  There are most commonly the following WB settings (Auto, Sunlight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, incandescent, florescent, Flash, or Manual).

The reason there are so many, is for you to look at the available light when you take your photo and accurately set the White Balance.  When you do then the camera know how warm or cool the light is based on some pre settings that determine the temperature of the light.  All light sources have a temperature measured in Kelvin.  So when you set the White Balance correctly the internal computer and image sensor will auto correct the available light that is coming into the camera and correct the colors so they look more natural.

So if you are outside and there are no clouds, you should set the WB to Sunshine.  If you didn’t set it to Sunshine and had previously set it to Tungsten the photos would have come out a little Blue.  In one of my Photography Tips, I show an example of having an incorrect White Blance.  If there is Clouds blocking the Sun, you would probably want to set the WB to Cloudy.  If you are outside and taking photos under shade, then you would use the Shade WB Setting.

If you incorrectly set the white balance in a photo, then you are going to have to use Computer software and try to change the warmth or coolness of the photo later.  If you shoot in .JPG mode, you won’t have a lot of control on correcting WB problems.  So it is very important that you set it correctly before you take a photo.    If however you shoot in RAW picture format, then using applications like Photoshop, Aperature, and Lightroom, you can change the WB to the correct setting with a lot less issues.

When I take a photo, I always remember to set my White Balance before I take the first photo.  (But sometimes I choose the wrong WB setting and have to correct it).  Now these White Balance settings on your camera aren’t exactly accurate, depending on the time of year, winter, Summer, Fall or where on the planet you live, the Sunshine WB setting may not be 100% correct.  So what can you do to get the “Right” WB setting?

There are a couple of choices.  In most DSLR camera’s you can set the WB manually by sampling the available light using a couple of techniques.  The first technique is to use a Gray Card and take a photo of the grey card in the current light conditions and use the Camera to sample the Gray card and determine the correct White Balance.  This is done through the Manual WB Mode.  The exact method of how to do this can be found in your Owners Manual.  Another technique is to take one photo of someone holding the Gray Card or even a white piece of paper and when you get back to your computer you can determine the WB (Temperature) of the light in something like Lightroom and then auto correct all your pictures in Post Production.  This will require a lot of more manual steps in the Computer, but it allows you to correct some WB mistakes.

I use something called an ExpoDisc, that allows me to put it on the front of my camera lens and take a picture of the available light and set my white balance through the manual mode.  This by far is the easiest method and gets my WB very fast.  I personally like this method the best and can change the WB quickly if lighting changes because of clouds or sunsets or if I’m using a flash all in the same day.  The only thing you have to remember is to take the ExpoDisc with you.  I try to remember to keep it attached to my Camera Strap. But even if I forget, I can always fall back to one of the other methods mentioned above.