Tuesday, February 15, 2011
White Balance Blues
Auto white balance may be convenient, but it won’t give you the best colors
|If you really wanted a cold-looking scene, then the AWB shot of these mountains near Mammoth, California, would be fine. But most people prefer the warmer shot done with Cloudy white balance.|
Regardless, if you’re shooting Auto white balance, you’re always needing an extra step in your workflow, namely adjusting white balance. I rarely adjust white balance because I set my camera specifically for the conditions—that locks it in and means one less thing to think about and deal with in the computer.
Taking Control Of White Balance
Setting white balance isn’t hard to do. We all had to learn to choose ƒ-stops, shutter speed and ISO. That’s part of the craft of photography. Setting white balance is also a part of the craft of digital photography.
|Radishes in the shade at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. This comparison is dramatic. The reds and greens of the radishes are seriously contaminated with blue in the AWB shot.|
There are basically two ways to use your camera’s preset white balance options:
1. Set the white balance to match the conditions. If the sun is out, set white balance to Daylight or Sunny. If it’s cloudy, choose Cloudy. If you’re in the shade, choose Shade. If you’re indoors with incandescent lights, set white balance to Tungsten. If you’re indoors with fluorescents, choose Fluorescent.
2. Set the white balance to modify the conditions. Slide and print films typically made colors a little warmer than what they were in real life (Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome” was based on that idea). Many photographers like to warm up images slightly because of this tradition from film, so you may find that sunrise and sunset look best with Cloudy white balance, or that daytime scenes look better with Cloudy white balance.
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