Working With White Balance

photographyclass_450*Today’s post is a guest post by THE DAILY DIGI artist team member, Ana.


How to get better colors in your photos

It’s a family gathering and you want to take a group picture. You get everyone together, set the timer on your camera and snap that perfect family picture that will sure end up in a beautiful scrapbook page. Just then, you realize people in the photo looked like they came from another planet, with a bluish tone to their skins.

Okay, there’s Photoshop. For us, digiscrappers, it’s somewhat easy to just fix the photo. But I’m sure you agree with me it would be useful to learn how to set your camera so that it cuts photo editing time. And that’s where white balance comes along.

White Balance is a special setting that adjusts the colors of the image as accurate as possible. Our eyes don’t notice the different shades of colors, so the white we see indoors is the “same” white we see outdoors. Our brains just say “Yep, that’s white” and that’s it. The camera is not so smart though, hence the yellowish, bluish tones that we get sometimes. Actually, the real explanation to why this happens goes back to physics, color temperatures, light and so on. We’ll not go there.

In your camera you will notice a button WB. This stands for White Balance. It comes with some presets: Auto White Balance (AWB), Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash and Custom. Some cameras also have Kelvin preset, mine (Canon Xti) doesn’t. The auto preset is fairly good, but when you start playing with white balance you notice that there is a big difference when you choose the right preset.

See my example below:

The first 2 images don’t have much difference in color. The doll was placed by the window, no lights were on in the room.

The shade preset makes the image warmer. The cloudy preset is slightly cooler than the shade one, still warmer than the first two presets.

The big difference is on the last two images. Those are totally wrong for the light available, making the white bluish. If I had the lights on, and had placed the doll somewhere else (not by the window), the tungsten preset would be the best. In this case, the natural light ones (daylight, shade, cloudy) would turn the image yellowish.

Now it’s time for you to play with your camera. If you have it on the auto mode, you won’t be able to change white balance presets. Get Out of Auto and see how you can enhance your images by learning how to operate your camera better.

If you want to learn more about White Balance, check out these articles:

Understanding White Balance, Cambridge in Colour

Pro Tip: White Balance 101, Webshots Blog