Light Has Color? Part 2 – White Balance

Have you noticed some shadows have a little bit of color to them? Clouds for instance; some clouds on mostly clear days have a sort of blue hue to them. I can not help but wonder in noticing this and with the understanding of the how and why rainbows are made we can understand the process of a camera’s White Balance.

Looking at pure light as a simple harmony of ROY G. BIV producing a brilliant “white”, we have laid the foundation to working with camera White Balance. Now camera are not charged only to filter natural sources of light but also other forms of light produced by man-made light sources. Since we have seen that light can be divided into 7 color forms, the basics of our study tell us that we will be dealing with more of 1 color than the other 6. It is possible that we would be dealing with a sever lack of 1 or more colors, but since our color pallette is only based with 7, our filters can be adequately limited.

White Balance is the effort of compensating for the lack of or overdose of a specific color through the use of filters. This is also the job of Image Specialists. One of their most common jobs is “color correction”. So software is outfitted with the ability to manipulate the colors which may lack or overwhelm the captured photo.

For interest sake I have made a list of ways that light is produced, natural and man-made.

Element (Metallic element made to conduct enough energy to glow without quickly exhausting the element’s lifespan.)
Vapor (Gases – Fluorescent, Mercury Vapor and Fire are uses of vapor in proper conditions to yield the production of light.)
Chemical (Liquid – Phosphorescence and Glow sticks)
Electronic (LED)

Take care and do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning is a wonderful opportunity!

Using A Flash

It is not always easy to evaluate the proper amount of lighting for photo composition. Because of this I notice a lot of people use the built-in camera flash to compensate when pictures are too dark.

I do not want to be seen as a “kill-joy” or “professional guru” when I write this, but here it goes: “It is better to leave your built-in camera flash off and use an added floor lamp or other “natural” lighting for proper exposure.”

Adding light does not mean you are required to use oodles and gobs of lights, rather to concentrate the cumulative light on your subject.

Here are some suggestions on concentrating light.

 

  • Take a strand of clear miniature Christmas tree lights (150+ bulbs) and lay them in an orderly “heap” near and partially under your subject. This creates a warm glow of light on your subject.
  • Set-up the shot in-front of a window facing the sunny side of the house and use a reflector to reduce the harsh shadows behind the subject.
  • Using a light-colored bed sheet provides a uniform background and at the same time reflects some light to reduce harsh shadows made by the light source.
  • Use a reading light or floor lamp, positioning it toward your subject for more direct lighting. If it is too harsh, diffuse it with a thin piece of fabric or white reflector. (NOTE: Be careful of colored fabrics so as not to unwittingly color your subject the wrong shade of purple!)
  • Flash lights are another good option for adding light. They may also need to be used in tandem with a diffuser.

The reason that pictures turn out  better 99% of the time without the built-in flash is this: The flash is too close to the camera lens giving the wrong lighting angle. Thus using other forms of lighting prompts us to find the best defining angles for our subject.

This is another reason that professional photographers will turn their hot-shoe flashes to bounce off of a surface near the subject.

It is important to have fun while experimenting with lighting and do not feel pressured to use conventional equipment!

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.