10 Vital Facts about White Balance
In 10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed I admitted that shutter speed is just as important as your aperture setting. In another post Understanding the 3 points of the exposure triangle I make it clear (I hope) that ISO, Aperture and shutter speed all influence each other. Adjust one and the other changes.
So, you can see how important it is to get the right setting and so it is with White Balance.
Which is why I have written this post “10 Vital Facts about White Balance”
Before I get stuck in let’s make one thing absolutely clear. For most of the time you only need to have your white balance on auto. If that’s about the level you want to stay at, then I won’t be offended if you don’t read the rest of this article. However, if you want to know another way of having a creative and accurate way of being in control of the colour of your photos, then read on.
OK, what is white balance?
Well before the digital age we really didn’t have the option to change the white balance so easily.
If I go through the index of some of the old photography books that were published with film in mind, not one of them mentions white balance.
White balance is basically a way of adjusting the colours in a photo so that it looks more natural.
Our eyes naturally compensate for any colour variances, but whilst the Auto setting on a camera does a great job, it can’t always compensate in the same way.
In the film days, if there was likely to be an issue with the colours, we could use a special type of film or attach a filter onto the lens of a camera.
So here’s the 10 Vital Facts about White Balance
1 White balance ensures that the white in an image is white
2 It will also add the opposite colour to an image in an attempt to bring the colour temperature back to neutral
3 By getting the white balance correct then there is every chance that the colours in an image will look ‘natural’.
4 White Balance measurement is in colour temperature. See no. 8 and 9
5 There are in general 8 presets which are Auto, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Overcast, Flash, Shade and sometimes custom where you can take your own white balance reading
6 The most common use is Tungsten which is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as globe lighting). It generally cools down the colours in photos.
7 The next would be Fluorescent which compensates for the ‘cool’ and sometimes green light of fluorescent light. This will warm up your shots
8 The measurement used is Kelvin which is a temperature scale similar to Centigrade or Fahrenheit.
9 The scale is usually from 2000K which is warm (amber) to a very cool 9000K (blue)
10 If you shot in Raw then you can just set to auto and adjust it in Lightroom or some other post processing program
So why do you need to worry about it?
Well actually you don’t if you shoot in RAW and do some post processing. If, however you shoot JPEG’s then you should have at least a basic understanding of it.
Let’s look at the presets:
The featured image is good rendition of the different colours that these settings represent.
Auto – The camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. You’ll find it works in most situations.
Tungsten – For shooting indoors, especially under incandescent (tungsten) lighting such as household bulb or globe lighting. It usually cools down the colours in photos.
Fluorescent – Fluorescent lighting will appear as either a ‘cool’ or ‘green’ light, so this setting will warm up your shots.
Daylight/Sunny – Some cameras don’t have this setting because it sets things as a fairly ‘normal’ white balance setting.
Cloudy – This will warm up your image.
Flash – Depending on the type of flash often the light can be quite cool, so just like cloudy it will warm up the image
Shade – The light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight, so again this pre-set warms up the image.
In a program like Lightroom you will get similar pre-sets if you are shooting in RAW.
The pre-sets in Lightroom for JPG are just three: As Shot, Auto and Custom.
The real answer to why you should care, is that there are times, when taking photos, that conditions are beyond the camera’s capability to get right. For instance, indoor photography, using a flash or even when the light outside changes from sunny to overcast or vice versa.
In these examples, it’s a good idea to change the white balance even if you do shoot in RAW (it’s always better to get it right in Camera)
The other reason is to get a bit creative. Take a landscape with the Tungsten setting, warm up a portrait so seems almost Sepia (the old-fashioned look) or use the fluorescent setting on a product shot. Experiment and you will find that you can get some really interesting images.
For a more detailed explanation by Video on Colour Temperature and white balance, check out this video by Greg at Lensprotogo
Did you understand all that? I’m happy to clarify anything you’re not sure of.
Just post in the comments section below. Don’t be shy.
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