tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - White Balance and Lighting Too

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - White Balance and Lighting Too

June 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
You're Smarter Than Your Camera - White Balance and Lighting Too
Hello everyone and welcome home second week of white balance and lighting.  Last week we looked at white balance and how it can affect our images tremendously if we don't choose the right white balance setting on our camera.  In the final week, I will go through options to manually set the White balance, but this week we will get into the details surrounding the different white balance during the day and touch on what you can do in the post processing if you find your white balance is off.
Is There a Quick and Easy Way I Can See the White Balance I'm Going to Get?
Actually there is.  If you use live view on your camera.  You can change the White balance of the image and see the immediate effect of the changes on the LCD screen.  See the images below of my camera as I change the white balance and view the subject through the LCD screen.  Compare the colour of the wall with the colour showing on the LCD.

The last image is the one with the auto white balance, which in this case does a pretty good job i.e. the colour of the white wall is showing as white.  Of course we have to assume that my iPad (the tool taking the image of the camera) has the correct white balance'll just have to take my word for that :-).
Lets Take a Closer Look at the Natural Light Variations in White Balance?
It's hard to believe there is such a change in the temperature of the colour of the sunlight throughout the day and that we don't normally even notice it.  It seems that our brains have adjusted the image that we see so that sunlight pretty much always looks the same.  Cameras are a different story.  They don't easily detect the type of light.  Take a look at this table below showing the time of day and the relative kelvin color of the light at that time - 

Sunlight:  Sunrise or Sunset 2000
Sunlight:  One Hour After Sunrise 3500
Sunlight:  Early Morning or Late Afternoon 4300
Average Summer Sunlight at Noon in the Mid-latitudes 5400
Direct Mid-Summer Sunlight 5800
Overcast Sky 6000
Daylight Fluorescent Lamp (see note below) 6300
Average Summer Sunlight (plus blue skylight) 6500
Light Summer Shade 7100
Average Summer Shade
Summer Skylight (varies)
9000 to 30000

Essentially control of white balance is to ensure that white elements of a subject appear white in an image and thus other colours are also represented as accurate. But, sometimes, it is fun to get a little creative with the light.  Morning light for photography can be beautiful and the low position of the sun creates soft shadows on your subject.  The window of opportunity in the morning, however is short compared to the evening, when there is a longer amount of time to allow photographers to make use of the softer, warmer light.  This is very attractive for photographing people.
Let's use this Tool and Get Creative
When you set the White balance on the camera to a shade setting.  We are telling the camera that the light temperature conditions are hotter than regular daylight (take a look at the listing above to check the kelvin estimate).  The camera responds by adding more reddish tones to counteract the blue ones created by the light.  Now let's say we are shooting in regular daylight, change the White balance setting to be shade and you will notice that the camera appears to be adding warmth (reddish tones) to the image.  It thinks we are shooting in shade even thought we aren't.  On many cameras you can actually set the Kelvin temperature you want the camera to use in order to get more control over it.
Of course you can do the opposite.  If you are shooting in daylight and set your white balance to incandescent, the camera will add bluish tones to the image to counteract the red ones from the 'imaginary' indoor light and the overall effect will be a bluish effect on your daylight image.
Help, My Image Needs the White Balance Adjusting!
Most processing software allows you to adjust the white balance of an image on the computer.  Jpegs can be adjusted, but if you shoot in RAW (more about this in another future blog) you will get a lot more control over the White balance in your image.
Your Challenge
Have a go with the live view and adjust the white balance.  Try taking your shots of the same subject at different times of the day or experiment with additional lighting on the same subject.  Is there an effect that you like...I'd love to see how you get on!
Next Time

We will look at using at grey card to manually control your white balance as well as 'does white balance really matter if you are shooting in raw??'  Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy your photography :-)

As always, I would love to hear any comments or questions you have.
Thanks again,

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