Setting the White Balance

Digital cameras perceive color much differently than the human eye. The eye compensates for most types of light making the melbourne photo booths scene in front of it look normal. But the truth is, every different light source emits a different type of color. Our eyes just compensate for that making everything look normal. Your digital camera attempts to do the same thing with something called white balance.

When you set your digital camera on auto white balance, the software inside the camera analyzes the lighting and sets the white balance accordingly. While there is no research to back this up, my guess is that 98% of casual photographers just leave their camera set on auto white balance. In this article we’ll take a look at how you can get better and more creative using your camera’s white balance settings.

Scientific discussions about the color of light use the term “temperature.” Different light sources tend to have their own color temperature, and this temperature is described in the scientific term “degrees Kelvin”, or “K.” Simple daylight, for instance, has a color temperature of 5500 K. As the temperature of light decreases it becomes redder, and as the temperature goes up, it becomes bluer. Simple example would be a household lamp, which has a tungsten bulb. A normal light source of this type has a Kelvin temperature of about 3200 K, which is quite reddish in color.

Photographers using film cameras handled changes in color temperature of light in a couple of different ways. The first way was to use a filter over the lens that would alter the light entering the camera to make the picture on the film more natural. The second way was to buy film that was specifically for the lighting conditions that the photograph was being taken in. Today’s digital cameras handle this task electronically with the camera software.

Typical Digital Camera White Balance Settings:

Auto White Balance:
Nearly every digital camera has a auto white balance setting. The camera measures the light around it and automatically sets the white balance. Even though this feature has developed to the point that it works extremely well, it still isn’t perfect. It is great for everyday snapshots, and many other types of photography, however, the auto white balance setting on the camera does shift colors in one direction or another and they end up in a close but not perfect color photograph.

One area of photography where auto white balance may give you some trouble is when you’re photograph has large areas of uniform color. For example, think about taking a picture of a pumpkin in close-up mode. Your camera has no conception of what a pumpkin is or should look like. You may end up with a photograph that is not the true color of the pumpkin at all. In this case it would have been better to manually set the cameras white balance.

Specific White Balance Settings:
In order to set a source – specific White balance setting, you will need to find the white balance settings on your camera menu. You will find settings such as sunlight, tungsten, cloudy day, shade, fluorescent, and flash. If you choose one of these settings you’ll have a much better chance of getting the color balance correct. Experimenting with these white balance settings is a good idea so that you can get an idea of what they actually do. In fact, it is fun to use all of the white balance settings on the same photograph just to see how much difference there is in different light sources.

Manual White Balance Settings:
More advanced digital cameras allowed the photographer to manually set the white balance of the camera. Using this method, you can get an exact match for existing light. One way to do this is to use a white card or a white sheet of paper directly in front of the lens and take a picture of that. Your camera will automatically set itself to the right color balance. You can also use the manual white balance setting to dial in his specific temperature. For instance, if you have a light meter, you can take a reading on your meter and I’ll that temperature setting right into your white balance.

Creative Ways to Use White Balance Settings:
Even though the cameras white balance settings are engineered and designed to give you perfect color, you can use the preset white balance settings to get some creative effects. For instance, if you take a typical daylight photograph with your white balance set tungsten, the picture will turn out would be very blue overcast. The same tungsten setting can be used to entirely change the appearance of a portrait.

You can also switch the situation around and use the daylight setting under tungsten lighting. This will create a deep yellow cast to the photograph.

If you use the same technique mentioned above under manual white balance settings, but instead of a white card you use a color card, you will hold the camera into thinking the lighting is quite different than it really is and the results could be quite creative and surprising.

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