Tuesday, March 16, 2010

12 Weeks to Better Photography- Week Three

 Whew. Week Three people! I hope y'all are learning as much about your cameras and photography in general as I am! This week's lesson was an exciting one for me--it's all about White Balance. I've read about White Balance before, but I will totally admit that it kinda always intimidated me. It was just kinda confusing. And did I want to adjust it in the camera, or shoot in RAW and change it in Photoshop/Adobe Bridge?

I'll be honest--I don't shoot in RAW all that often. Generally, only if I'm doing a professional shoot. RAW is just more work than I want to spend for everyday pictures, and my goal is to take great shots straight out of the camera, rather than having to spend a lot of time editing them. So for me, setting a custom white balance in my camera is the easiest way to do that.

Here's the basic idea--light comes in all different colors. Sometimes, like when we're indoors at night, the light can take on a yellow or orange tint that isn't necessarily visible to the naked eye, but is visible in pictures. For example, I know you all have taken a shot that's looked something like this:

And who says men can't multi-task. That's soda drinking/trying to get baby to sleep at it's finest! Except for that ugly orangeish tint, which is a byproduct of shooting on "Auto White Balance" mode. But wait....what if there was a way to tell my camera, "The light has an orange tint right now. This is what white looks like in this light...but please make it look like normal white."  There IS a way to do that. And it's simple as pie--take a picture of something white (like a piece of paper). That something white needs to fill the entire frame. It does NOT have to be in focus, just white, and fill the frame. Then set that picture of the white piece of paper as your custom white balance marker. This tells your camera how to adjust things so that the whites are white. And let me tell you folks, the difference is incredible: 

See that?! By telling my camera what white looked like in that particular light,  
I was able to take a shot at 9pm that looks like it was taken in the middle of the day! Wahoo!

PS- if you ever take your camera to shoot at a friend's wedding, do this. The bride will be forever thankful when her dress isn't blue. Just remember that as the light changes, you'll have to do a new custom white balance. 

Moving on. Most dslr cameras also have a few pre-sets. I think it's worth playing around to see if one will typically work in your house:
White Balance

See, for our house, the white fluorescent setting at night gives a close approximation to natural light.

So, how did things go for y'all this week? Did anyone give a gray card a shot?


  1. Um, hello orange tint I have in every indoor photo I take. So wait, did you hold up the sheet and then take a photo on every different white balance setting until you found the right one? I'll have to check out the tutorial for this week, this is a huge problem for me.

  2. I am so happy I found your blog! I just got a new camera for my birthday, with 3 kids and a full time job I don't feel like I have a lot of time to mess with figuring it out. I also read the Mythof me and you and I loved it! Do you have to tell your camera to recognize the white sheet or it just knows to adjust itself? Thanks for your help!

  3. This was by far one of the best lessons yet and your pictures do an OUTSTANDING job of showing just what a difference it can make! I wanted to try the gray card but don't have one. Maybe in the future...

  4. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the difference.

    I can only watch from afar as I haven't started my blog(yet), but am taking notes for the day I have a fanchy shmancy camera.

  5. Crazy difference this makes!!!! Fixes a lot of my indoor nighttime photos! Great pictures! We got a gray card, but I haven't been brave enough to open Photoshop and try it yet :-P

  6. To answer some of the questions...

    Emily- most cameras (including point and shoots) have a bunch of pre-set white balance settings. They are usually something like sunny, cloudy, snow, etc. For the pre-set ones, you don't hold up a piece of paper at all-you just select the right type of light. But dslr cameras also let you CUSTOM set the White Balance, which is what you use the paper for. You don't use the paper and the pre-set settings at the same time.

    Adie- At least for my Canon, when I say that I want to use the Custom White Balance, I then scroll through and select the picture I want to base the whites on, and then click "set".

  7. Wow, what a difference the WB made in your two photos! I would never guess that it was 9pm!

  8. This was by-far the best experience I've had with our DSLR! I feel like I just learned an awesome trick :) Just wait till I should the husband!!

  9. This lesson was amazing. I actually enjoyed it instead of cursing at my camera ;) Thanks for doing this, Meredith! Every little bit of knowledge helps!

  10. That is amazing! I will have to remember this . . . for whenever I start to take pictures again. Thanks.


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