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White Balance Explained

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White Balance Explained

So you've figured out shutter speed, aperture, and ISO and think that you are all set to shoot manual ALL the time?  Well, it turns out that there are other important settings you will need to learn as well… One of which is White Balance.

White balance is how you set your camera to "perceive" the color of  light.  Light ranges in color from yellow to blue.  The reason you need to understand white balance, is that sometimes the camera works incorrectly in "auto" white balance mode.  Therefore, it's almost alway's better to place the camera into one of the other presets, this will also keep it from varying from shot to shot.

To better understand white balance, try taking a piece of white paper and looking at it indoors, and out.  You still know that it's white, but you'll see that the color of it is warmer (more yellow) indoors.  Our eyes compensate for this and when we see something we know to be white, we instantly adjust our "internal white balance" to perceive it correctly.  Camera's don't do this so we have to step in…


Neutral White Balance


Cold White Balance


Very Warm White Balance

The camera will occasionally take a poor reading and process the image too cool (bluish tint), or too hot (yellow tint).  When shooting in JPEG mode (though RAW is better… and heres why…) you will need to get this setting correct from capture.  It's really tough to make the white balance of a poorly balanced JPEG correct in post production since the camera has already processed and condensed the image file.  With RAW mode white balance is not as much of a necessity because it really is mostly a post production adjustment, but it will affect how the image displays on the back of the screen, and getting it right at capture will save you the extra post production time later.

So what settings work and how do you use them correctly?  When you are outside shooting, try setting the camera to "daylight" or "cloudy" mode.  We typically like to put the camera in Cloudy mode all the time because it's slightly warmer and will make your image have a better "vibe" to it but that's just personal preference.  When it's early or late you may want to choose the daylight settings or the images will be very warm, and possibly too yellow.  Experiment with these settings at different times of day and you can create some very cool effects!

If you're outside and shooting flash, still use daylight or cloudy mode, but you can also use flash mode.  Flash is somewhere in between the two so whichever one you choose really won't affect the image too much.  Heading inside to shoot a sport or capturing images outside at night with lights?  This is where you will need to experiment.  Incandescent light is very warm, where as fluorescent is fairly cold.  Try both "preset" settings and take sample shots to see if it looks right on the screen.  If you can't find a setting that works, choose Kelvin mode and move the "temperature" in Kelvins up or down to find the right setting.  This will take a bit of time but when done correctly can achieve the best indoor results.

Alway's keep white balance in mind when you shoot and try to avoid full "Auto WB"!

 

Next Guide Article:  Exposure Compensation Explained

 

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