Thursday, March 12

white balancing act

Thursday, March 12

one of the hardest things to master in photography (besides lighting) is white balance! when a white balance is wrong, a photo can look too red/orange or too blue! this has to do with the hue that different light sources cast as a result of their temperature. our eyes are capable of automatically adjusting to difference light sources, but the camera isn't.

over the years i have gone back and forth with my white balance settings. for a while i used AWB (auto white balance), then i started using the WB camera presets, changing the settings quite often during a single session or wedding, then i went back to AWB. but, i've never been completely happy with the outcome of those settings, and had to spend too much time correcting it in post prodcution. so several months ago i started to use custom WB. with custom WB, you first take a photo of something completely white. then, set the camera to automatically adjust the white balance temperature according to that white image. and while this is slightly more time consuming, the colors are truer to life. the downside is that it's not always easy to find something white to snap.

a remedy for this is to get one of the many products designed specifically for this purpose! the cost of such products range from the $10 WB card or $12 lens cap, to the $100 WB lens filter. or, you can just bring a piece of plain white paper, place it in front of your subject (to accurately gauge the subject's lighting.), snap a pic, making sure to completely fill the inner circle on your viewfinder with white, and then turn on the custom WB settings.

here's a sample of one of lucy's toys using this method and plain piece of white paper. (the paper was a little thicker than a normal piece of paper...but it was still just a piece of paper.)

here you can see the difference between the each camera setting on my canon 5d:

when i compare the actual toy to each photo, the custom white balanced image is almost identical in color to the actual toy in real life.

i also thought i'd show you the drastic difference white balance can make in skin tones! here are 3 shots of lucy with 3 different common white balance settings. the first is custom WB, the second is AWB, and the third is the shade preset (the one that best described the surroundings). (again, i just had lucy hold the piece of white paper in front of her face, and custom balanced from that.)

as you can see, once again the custom white balance setting offered the most accurate colors and skin tone. i actually can't believe how "off" the camera's presets are! the AWB is insanely too blue/magenta, and the shade is much too orange!

*i did not correct the WB of any of these in photoshop, and i photographed them all out of direct sunlight in our well-lit family room (no flash was used).

perhaps in the future i'll invest in a nice WB filter or even a handy WB lens cap, but right now paper works just fine!

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1 comments (don't be shy...i LOVE comments!):

Sherah said...

I've been trying to figure out how to justify buying that lens cap from photojojo... but I've never tried the silly white piece of paper. (It's probably the best place to start. And it's, um, FREE. Helloo...)

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