Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photo Tips Series - White Balance

White balance can be tricky but it can absolutely make or break your photos, especially your indoor photos.  Especially your Christmas indoor photos that are once in a lifetime shots.  But no pressure or anything.

If you are able to set your white balance correctly, the colours that you see in real life will be the same as the colours in your photo.  If you are getting red or yellow or blue tinges (or any other colour for that matter) to your photos, your white balance is probably off.

See these four yarn photos?  They are the same yarn with the white balance different on each of them.  The grey colour at the far right is the accurate colour in real life.  What a difference, eh!


Most of the time I use the AWB (automatic white balance) option on my camera and it works great and I'm happy, but not always.  I try to remember to take a photo and check the display to make sure the colours look okay.  These tips are for those times when auto isn't cutting it.

There are usually a handful of preset white balance settings on your camera.  These are the settings that are found on my camera (it's a Nikon though I'm sure that other brands would be similar):
- incandescent (aka tungsten, halogen)
- fluorescent
- direct sunlight
- flash
- cloudy
- shade

The outdoor settings seem pretty obvious.  If it's sunny, pick direct sunlight.  If it's cloudy, pick cloudy.  I find that it's when I move indoors that I don't always get the results I would like.

When this happens, I can further tweak the white balance by using the A-B and G-M grids.  This is what they look like:

Source
See the dot/cursor in the middle?  You can move that.  For example, if your photos are coming out a little too yellow or red (aka A or amber in the above grid), then move your cursor to the left toward the B (blue).  If your photo is too green (G), then move the cursor down toward the M (magenta).  So you move the cursor in the OPPOSITE direction of the colour that you are getting in your photos.

For more examples and visuals, check out the Hurlbut Visuals site.  They do a fabulous job with this.

There is one more very easy white balance trick that might be helpful if you are getting inappropriate colours in your photos.  With your camera set to AUTO white balance, take a picture of a piece of white paper.  Make sure the paper is in the same light setting as the subject you want to photograph and this will 'set' your white balance for you.  Now all of your photos in this same setting will have a proper white balance.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a tricky topic and I would definitely start in AUTO white balance mode.  If this works, great.  If not, now you have some tricks to help you get the perfect white.  Good luck.

References:
Introduction to White Balance - DPS
Hurlbut Visuals

3 comments:

MiMi said...

I'm JUST now getting the thing you talked about last week I think?
Anyway, I was indoors at a Christmas thing and I wanted to take pictures...it was dark and there were twinkly lights...of course when you take the picture the flash comes on and washes everything out. So I took the (was it exposure??) down to - something or other (i'm technical, see?) and it worked fabulously!!

Sunny Vanilla said...

Hi Terry! Just stopping by from Amy's bday bash. Love your little mitten! It would make a cute Baby's First Christmas ornament :-)

Kadie said...

I have been wondering about the whole white balance thing. I love the tip to take a photo of a white piece of paper. I am going to have to try that.

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