Thursday, February 5, 2009

White Balance - A Primer

First, I'd like to report that the fancy pants camera has returned! After 4-5 weeks and some $$$ shelled out by moi, I have my camera back with the autofocus capability in tact, and I have been shooting like crazy.

On to the next lesson - white balance. Understanding this concept will DEFINITELY improve your photos, especially if you do not currently own/use a program like Photoshop, iPhoto, etc. White balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts in your photos so that objects that appear white in person also appear white in your photo. Here's an example:

Example of an incorrect white balance Example with corrected white balance

The photo on the left has a bluish tinge to it, but with the correct white balance, the photo on the right is a more accurate representation of the scene being photographed. Proper white balance takes into account the "color temperature" of a light source, such as candlelight, indoor lighting, sunlight, shade, and so on. Your digital camera has an automatic white balance (AWB) setting, but there are situations where a white balance adjustment will produce a much better result.

You might have noticed that some of your photos come out with an orange, blue, or yellow look to them, even though to the naked eye the scene looked quite normal. The reason for this is that images different sources of light have a different ‘color’ (or temperature) to them. Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos. Generally speaking, for cooler (blue or green) light you’ll tell the camera to warm things up and in warm light you’ll tell it to cool down.

Beyond the automatic white balance setting, most digital SLRs (and many digital point and shoot cameras) have the following white balance settings:
(Thanks to Alexis Miller for this nifty diagram).

I know this lesson is a little overwhelming - in fact I may need another cup of coffee just to proofread this post. Try it out, though - any questions email me or leave me a comment (I would love to know who's out there reading this...)


Patti February 6, 2009 at 5:00 PM  

I read it! I read it! :)

Thanks for the settings chart - I haven't seen it broken down with the 'this setting adds warm tones/cool tones' info. Very helpful. Although I tend to cheat and not use my white balance settings and just adjust in iPhoto. 'Cause I'm lazy like that.

I keep meaning to send you some photos for critique ala your last (?) blog post...but clearly, I haven't yet. Soon.

Melissa Brandman February 7, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Thanks Patti - I know what you mean about adjusting in iPhoto. I'm lazy like that too :)

Send me some pics when you get a chance, ok?