Friday, 3 February 2012

White Balance


What is white balance? Why do we need it?

White Balance is an aspect of photography that many digital camera owners don’t understand or use – but it’s something well worth learning about as it can have a real impact upon the shots you take.

So for those of you who have been avoiding White Balance here it is. 

At its simplest – the reason we adjust white balance is to get the colors in your images as accurate as possible.

Why would you need to get the color right in your shots?
You might have noticed when examining shots after taking them that at times images can come out with an orange, blue, yellow etc look to them – despite the fact that 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.

The range in different temperatures ranges from the very cool light of blue sky through to the very warm light of a candle.
We don’t generally notice this difference in temperature because our eyes adjust automatically for it. So unless the temperature of the light is very extreme a white sheet of paper will generally look white to us. However a digital camera doesn’t have the smarts to make these adjustments automatically and sometimes will need us to tell it how to treat different light.

Preset White Balance Settings


Here are some of the basic White Balance settings you’ll find on cameras:
  • Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. You’ll find it works in many situations but it’s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting.
  • Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.
  • Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
  • Daylight/Sunny – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
  • Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode.
  • Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
  • Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.

Examples

Here is examples of taking your own white balance images in one lighting environment. Notice the effects having the incorrect white balance can have upon the colours and tones of an image.






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