White balance

White balance dramatically changes the way your photos look.

Lets say….you are opening the box of your brand new Nikon/Canon DSLR. You read up all about your new investment, only to be hugely dissappointed with the results from your days shooting. The colours are weak and washed out and despite the brilliant weather conditions, your images look flat, this is the time to have a coffee, relax and study your white balance settings.

Fortunately, most digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances, so you do not have to deal with color temperature and green-magenta shift, commonly used symbols for each of these are listed to the left on the back of the camera screen i.e. auto, cloudy, shade and so on.

white balance

Actually, setting your camera’s white balance is the easy part. What’s a little trickier is understanding why you should make a particular setting.

Digital camera tips: setting white balance

The color of an object is affected by the lighting conditions under which it is viewed. Our eyes and our brain compensate for different types of light—that’s why a white object appears white to us whether it’s viewed in sunlight, under overcast skies or indoors under incandescent or fluorescent light. But a digital cameras white balance needs help to emulate this process, to compensate for different types of lighting and render a white object white.

The white balance setting is that help.

We can simply set auto white balance and the camera will read the scene’s color temperature (basically the hue and intensity of a particular light source, measured in degrees Kelvin) and choose a setting from its collection of pre-programmed adjustments. That’s a good solution when a scene’s lighting is pretty much all of one type and there’s a prominent white or neutral subject in the scene.

White balance dramatically changes the way your photos look. Those settings choices are incandescent, fluorescent, flash, cloudy, open shade, sunny, Kelvin color temperature and PRE.

However…just because the weather is cloudy, it does not mean you HAVE to use that setting.

If it’s cloudy, try the SHADE setting for a warmer feel, try fluorescent and watch it turn BLUE. Turning your attention to your white balance can transform your images, especialy if your days shoot is ruined by the weather. Experimenting with ALL the settings at your disposal the colour “temperatures”, can save the day.

Finally, you can choose PRE, the so-called “white card” setting. With that option selected, hold a white card in front of the lens and press the shutter button. The camera will read and lock in the color temperature of the light reflected from that card, and that locked-in reading now becomes the standard for the camera’s white balance setting. PRE is an ideal way to handle a scene that presents mixed lighting—fluorescent lights in the ceiling and daylight streaming through a window, for example—because it takes into account all the lighting in the scene. (The locked-in setting is maintained in PRE until you take another white card reading.)

No matter how you set your white balance, check the results of your choices on the camera’s LCD and adjust according to your preference. Often your choice will depend on the look, feel and mood you want for your picture. And remember, Live View will show you the effect of your choice before you take the photo.

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