Saturday, February 25, 2012

White Balance Settings and Color Correction - Lesson 2

How was the first lesson? (If you didn’t understand something, let me know!)


Lesson 2

This lesson is all about white balance and creative white balance.

Sometime, sooner or later, you will have a big problem on your hands. The pictures you take may end up with weird, ugly colors – not at all the way the scene looks to your eyes! The color cast in your problem pictures can be corrected by changing the white balance setting in your camera.

Look at this picture. The colors don't look realistic at all. Candlelight, firelight, and lantern light all look yellow/orange, but the camera often makes the light from these things dull and lifeless. 
Compare the picture above with this one:

The good news is, fixing the weird, ugly colors of the first image isn't hard! First, make sure your camera is set to Av (Aperture Value or Aperture Priority) or Tv (Time value, otherwise known as shutter speed priority) mode - something other than full auto. Then, figure out how to get to the white balance options. If you’re having trouble, go get the camera manual and look up how to set the white balance. (Yeah, yeah. I know – it’s probably the first thing you threw away after you figured out how to take a picture! Bad idea. The camera manual, boring as it is to slog through, is one of the most useful tools available!)

White Balance Settings – Set the camera's white balance to match the lighting conditions around you.

Here’s how the white balance setting work:

AWB (Auto White Balance) is easy to use, quick, and gives you absolutely no creative control. It gets good results in many cases, but miserably fails in the tougher situations. That is when you have to take control!

Daylight, often designated by a sun icon, is a great setting to use on sunny days when you’re outside taking pictures.

The Cloudy setting – usually shown by a cloud icon – is used for exactly what the name says – a cloudy or overcast day when the sun isn’t shining. It also comes in handy when taking beautiful portraits using window light. (Note: Use the Cloudy setting or the Daylight setting in the shade if your camera doesn’t have a Shade setting for use in the shade.) 
Light on a cloudy day is blue. A picture taken using AWB (Auto White Balance) on a cloudy day often ends up looking cool, not warm and cheerful.
A picture of a cute kitten chewing on a flower bud shouldn't look dull and lifeless. Changing your camera settings to Cloudy will fix this problem quickly.

The Fluorescent setting comes in handy when inside under fluorescent lights. (See! This is all very logical!) The fluorescent setting helps remove the green color cast that is produced by these lights. People are much more flattered when they don't look slightly green and a bit seasick in photos!

Try it and you’ll see that the Tungsten setting (usually designated by a light bulb) gives most pictures a very blue cast. This setting is useful for two things:
1. Under yellow or orange lights inside a building, Tungsten helps produce pictures with more realistic colors by cancelling out the yellow/orange color cast.
2. Tungsten is one of my favorite settings to use creatively as we’ll talk about later.

Flash white balance – (It looks like a lightning strike.) Use when taking flash pictures. J How hard is that?

Last is Custom White Balance. This one takes a little bit of time to learn and is well worth the extra effort. 
Basically, all you do is to fill the whole picture with plain white – either a piece of paper, a white wall, or ceiling, etc. and photograph that white object in the same room under the same lighting conditions where you will be taking the following pictures. Then use the picture of the white object to set the Custom White Balance. Once the white balance is set using your white picture, all the following pictures you take under the same lighting conditions will have perfectly balanced colors. This setting is wonderful for the trickiest lighting situations. (Just remember to change the white balance back to one of the regular settings when you leave the room! If you don't, all the pictures you take under different lighting conditions will have skewed colors.)  Another use for custom white balance is when white balance is used creatively.


Using White Balance Settings Creatively

What can you do to increase the vividness and color of a sunset or sunrise? Why don't you try setting your White Balance to Cloudy or Shade? This brings out the fiery reds, oranges, and yellows even more.


Want to make it seem more like night or just get a cool, mysterious effect? Try the Tungsten setting and see what happens! You might love the results.  Another use for the Tungsten setting would be if a sunset or sunrise has a lot of blue or purple in it.


Want to explore even more? Really get creative using Custom White Balance. Instead of being confined to taking pictures of a flat white object and using those pictures to set your custom white balance, try photographing a blue or an orange sheet of paper (Fill the frame completely with the sheet of paper.) or another flat, one-colored object. Use this photo to set the custom white balance. Using your new setting, the world’s colors will be transformed! With some practice and a spirit of adventure, you will learn what subjects and scenes benefit from this treatment. Play around. The possibilities are endless!


Assignment:

  • Go over the lesson again, this time with your camera.
  • Try each setting and see the effect it produces!
  • When taking pictures this week, remember to experiment with the many white balance settings.
  • Use white balance to help fix weird colors in your problem pictures.
  • Go outside for at least one sunrise or sunset this week and try out your new creative white balance techniques.


See you next time!

A helpful quote:

 “Shoot a lot and take a lot of notes!  The more you know 
about what you did and how to either repeat 
what is successful or eliminate your errors, the faster you’ll see major advancements in your photography.”…”Owning the most gadgets and fanciest equipment doesn’t guarantee the best images, you must know how to control all the variables.” – Ross Burden 

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