Terms – white balance

White balance is an interesting setting for digital cameras. When shooting portraits the photographer is sure to want the colors true. This is a setting of “custom” white balance.

Gary Fong has posted a video to YouTube giving visual instruction of how to set you Canon 5D custom white balance. Custom white balance Canon SLR settings are not complicated to adjust.

If you do not have the tools for setting your white balance that Gary does, a white card with true black and 30% gray sections are perfect for the same use.

There is only one difference to remember as you set the white balance…instead of letting the light come through the dome as Gary demonstrated, simply hold the card next to your subject and take a picture of the white section (making sure to have your memory storage in your camera whether internal or CF or SD).

I mention the memory card because some photographers will automatically transfer the images to a computer or hard disk and not in their camera. When this is done the camera cannot reference the photo for color imbalances.

Enjoy, and keep the colors true!


Cloudy skies, with a chance…

“The weather forecast for today is cloudy skies, with a 97% chance of distracted photographers…” Have you ever had that feeling of someone watching as you set-up a shot with the thought in the back of your mind, “I am so distracted with everything else but my shot that I will miss it!”

Shooting under cloudy skies can pose quite a challenge, but do not let the challenges get you down! This is only an opportunity to learn more about the equipment you have and how to use it with the utmost efficiency.

Most camera manufacturers have come to realize the difficulty of the outdoor photographer. With such an understanding they have built-in some wonderful features in the White Balance settings that allow for these difficulties.

Thin clouds present the most different obstacle because prevailing winds in the higher atmosphere is either your best friend or worst enemy. By that I mean, if the wind is strong enough to keep the cloud layer moving you will have an even lighting providing that the cloud layer is constant in thickness. However, if the wind gusts or is too slow, the thin cloud layer will be easily burnt through (typical of southern climates) and thus give times of harsh and direct sunlight.

Spotty clouds are always changing amounts of light and seem to be playing the “peek-a-boo” game for that perfect shot. Frustrating? That would be a kind way of speaking about this problem!

Thick clouds project a cold or harsh look on and around the subject, whereas with every subject I have photographed warmer colors are always more inviting. Yes the cloudy setting will eliminate most if not all of the gloom emitted by the clouds, but in all of these scenarios there is the problem of constant change in amounts of light and then the unexpected objects that reflect the sunlight when the sun is unveiled.

What is the answer? In my experience when shooting with ever-changing lighting, I will use the “Shade” White Balance setting. This will lighten the shadows so as to compensate for the sharp contrast in lighting and still avoid most of the over exposure on the surfaces that are given direct lighting!

When I began shooting in these conditions, I came to my senses about halfway through the photo-op. It was easy to have a moment which I call a “professional hissy-fit”, but when you are with a client, it is best to remain cool, calm and collected. As I reviewed the shots, I realized that we had last shot in shade and all of the photos after still turned out very well, with detail I did not expect in the shadows.

Times like this one are great opportunities to learn how your camera functions and understanding precisely how each setting will help or hinder you in achieving your goal.

So the next time you are out and about with a camera in your hand, take the opportunity to master an obstacle and become that better photographer!

*NOTE: These mentioned White Balance settings are not “industry standard”, so their names and usage may vary according to manufacturer specifications.

Setting a proper White Balance (WB)

Setting the proper White Balance for a shot is a vital key to get a photo that does justice for the “captured moment”.

Getting to the White Balance menu on your camera is going to vary between brands and even models. To save you from having to weed through each brand and model I will share some general and basic things to look for as you learn you camera.

White Balance speaks to the color of light that is used in the surrounds where you are shooting the photo. Most common consumer model cameras will have a pictorial icon of the light source. Listed below are some of the common White Balance icons:

Cloudy:       Cloudy icon

Custom:     Custom icon

Flash:         Flash icon

Fluorescent: Fluorescent icon

Shade:        Shade icon

Sunlight:     Sunlight icon

Tungsten:   Tungsten icon

Thanks to photonotes.org for their great help page on the “common camera symbols”.

All but one of these names make sense. When I first came across the “Tungsten” White Balance, I was thoroughly confused. Every time I have spoken with a hobbyist or new amateur photographer I see my reaction all over their face.

There is no reason for panic or worry. “Tungsten” is simply the normal incandescent light bulb setting. It is a great help to have the icon images next to the names of these White Balance settings, but it still doesn’t really explain why there are so many options and when or where they should be used.

Most of the light bulb options are simple enough to figure out except where the are two types in use. The best way to find which White Balance setting gives the best ambiance in your photo is to take a picture with each setting. Find your preference in ambiance and make a note! Do keep in mind this may change between rooms or if more of one kinda of light is added!

Flashes: if your flash is activated be aware that it almost always will over power every other light source and therefore you will want to have your White Balance set to “Flash”. If you do not have a “Flash” White Balance setting, use the “Custom” White Balance setting.

Some cameras may have an “Automatic” White Balance setting, but it is always best to match the lighting situation as best you can at each location where you are shooting!

A visual reminder of how your photo may come out without using the proper White Balance setting is below.

White Balance Illustration

White Balance setting in image order: Sunlight; Automatic; Tungsten

There are a few questions that come up as you begin to become proficient with your White Balance settings.

For instance, you may be taking a picture of a friend sitting in the shade of a building, but you are standing in the sunlight, should you use the “Shade” or “Sunlight” White Balance setting? The answer comes by what you can see through your view finder or digital display. If the shot is framed inside the shadowed area, your best is to use the “Shadow” White Balance setting.

The best thing is to get to know your camera! Learn how it views the subject you are shooting. You may find out that you prefer other White Balance setting to what most photographers suggest.

Happy Photo Shooting!