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!

Revisiting “Darktable”

In a post last year, we discussed software packages for photography workflow and one of them is named “Darktable”.

I am always on the hunt for software and hardware that will give me optimal performance with minimal effort to help me through an intense product workflow. After looking into other software packages for my specific criterion, I came down to two options. Let me walk you through my list and then we will discuss the process to get here.

This is a list of basics that are crucial  to portrait, scenery and still life photography:

  1. Editing power for spot removal, elemental selection tools and layering work. This ability must either be a part of the software package or ability for integration with an editing program. [These things are important for manipulate and image without also misrepresenting anything within the photo.]
  2. RAW adjustment ability for exposure, white balance, contrast, color pushing and pulling, Tonal adjustments, etcetera.
  3. Cropping photos in batch files to certain common print sizes and digital device resolution.
  4. Quality assurance is a particularly important part. No customer wants a picture that is unfocused or has poor quality. So the program should accurately read and adjust the printing quality of a photo in dot per inch (DPI).
  5. Upload batches of files to personal web albums and other public albums on commercial websites or social media for advertising.
  6. Intuitive Workflow through the program is a great help while not “necessary”, is better to have functions and menus organized and accessible without multiple steps.

Software packages like Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture will not contain as powerful manipulation processes as Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Paintshop Professional. That is why I said it should at-least be capable of import/export integration with the manipulation software.

Now that I have explained my list of software package attributes I wanted, I will discuss Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture in our second blog post this Friday.

Canon Camera Production

This post will be a little shorter in words with an informational video on Canon’s production process of their camera lines. This video includes the consumer models as well as the professional Digital SLR cameras.

I find the specific science in making these camera parts amazing. These are the physical makings (or hardware) of the camera and the side we utilize most as photographers is the computer processing (or software) side as we change ISO, Aperture, White Balance, Single shot or Multiple Photo Burst shooting, Timed Shutter Release, Shutter Speed and Picture Style. Both are discussed in this embedded video. Thank you for reading and God bless!

*Disclaimer: I would have given a “Part 2” on Nikon manufacturing process of imaging products but as of today I have only been able to find lens assembly with no more detail or information than Canon in the video posted above. I will be more than happy to post a professional video of Nikon’s manufacturing process (after review), if publicly posted on vimeo, youtube or similar public forum.

A studio set-up

Creating a studio background sweep for that “all professional” look is not that difficult. Your attention should be drawn to the object or subject of interest and not the lighting or set-up of the shot. In other words be sure that you lights are pointed directly at your subject and not slightly off to any one side.

Setting up your own studio does not have to be complex or involved! The basics can get confusing if they are not properly explained. I will post some pictures of my studio set-up with unusual equipment so that you can get a visual understanding of how it can work and improvise with your own set-up.

Equipment list:

2 lengths of 12.5 feet of paracord, 1 pane of 8″ x 10″ glass, fabric background sweep, Prop for glass and jewelry (cleaning pen cap and a 2 inch ring box), over head structure (Be certain it is sturdy! I used 2 securely installed ceiling light fixtures), tripod, remote shutter release, 2 soft light diffusers, 2 lights, camera and a good macro lens (as well as the obvious batteries and memory card).

I began my studio construction with an over head structure that would hold my background sweep and a light.

I began by taking a length of paracord, tying an overhand knot in the end and inserting it between the wood of the light fixture (pictured on the left) and it’s diffuser. Thus with the pull of gravity and the light weight pull of hanging objects it will be caught in a “pinching” hold.

I used this same technique for each time I made a contact point with the light fixture. For knots that were not at the ends of the paracord I used the overhand knot on a bight.

Be creative while playing around with methods of friction because friction properly applied is your best help and not destructive!

Friction, as illustrated on the left, is holding the light in one place along the paracord. The paracord is looped around the open end of the stand making it easily adjustable along the support line and providing way to  adjust the placement of light on the object.

It rarely is a good idea to have hard light shining directly on the object or subject, so I removed the reflective outside of photo reflectors and used the white fabric of the reflector disk as a diffuser. Again I used the convenient open end of the stand from which to hang the reflector disk. The reflector disk must be pulled back so that it covers the “shooting area” where the object or subject is placed. I used a straight pin to gather the reflector disk fabric around the power cord, nicely covering the shooting area of the background sweep.

A note of caution: Be careful of hanging anything heavy on the line. The weakest part of the over head structure in this set-up is the diffuser.

We have discussed how one of our lights is set-up, but there is another light that needs to be set-up at a lower angle and portable to figure out the best position to illuminate the facets of the piece or person in focus.

Let me introduce the “chair mount”. If you are familiar with lashing techniques I used the square lash to secure the light to a chair back making sure that the power cord for the light was long enough to reach any place the light may need to be positioned.

Having extra paracord from lashing the light to the back of the chair, it conveniently became the securing point for the reflector disk.

Now that the studio is ready for some of the smaller details, an 8×10 inch piece of glass (clean from dust and dirt) is a nice addition to reflect an object. Bring in you camera, tripod and objects to photograph and begin to play with object position and camera perspectives. Take your time with the first piece being sure you have properly set your cameras white balance, ISO and shutter speed to properly show off the beauty of your photo’s focus.

Have fun and  be creative, because fun and creativity will make a better statement than perfect professional rigidity.

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!