Photography 101: Understanding White Balance

Dealing With colour cast in your photos

Photography 101: Understanding White Balance

White balance is one of those settings on the camera that no one really knows much about, particularly since there's an "automatic" option on the dial. Most of the time, setting your white balance to automatic is acceptable, particularly if you're editing your photos after you take them and can adjust colour as needed. Adjusting colour in post-processing can be a lot of work, though, and you may find that your camera can help you out a little bit if you adjust your white balance settings.

What is white balance? An easy definition is this: a setting on your camera that allows it to adjust for the different colours of light that are emitted by different light sources.

Ever wondered why your skin looks less than spectacular when standing under the fluorescent lights in a fitting room? It's because of the colour cast given off by the fluorescent light. All light, including sunlight, emits some sort of colour. Our eyes process this without much difficulty; our cameras, however, see things differently. The white balance setting acts as a filter over what your camera thinks it is seeing.

I took the following photos on a white sheet of paper on top of my kitchen counter, under our pot lights. The house was quite dark today, so there wasn't really any natural light interfering with the picture, and I did not use my flash. I changed my white balance setting each time and you can see the impact it has on the colour of the photographs.

Auto White Balance (shown as AWB on your camera): Generally speaking, the camera did a good job (particularly when you see what happens with some of the other settings). It still is a bit too pinkish-gray for the background, which should be almost white.

Sunlight or Daylight (symbol of a sun): Definitely not the right setting for this photograph, but that's not a surprise, given that I took the photo inside a relatively dark room. Great idea to use this on a bright and sunny day.

Shade (symbol of a house with shade): There's a whole lot of extra orange added on this setting, which is great if you're actually using it in the shade, since shade can be quite blue.

Tungsten (symbol of a light bulb): Probably the closest lighting source to what we have in our kitchen. Not bad, but not great. Very close to the automatic setting.

Fluorescent (symbol of a fluorescent tube): You can see that this filter brings more pink into the picture, which would counteract the greenish tinge given off by most fluorescent lights.

Flash (symbol of a lightning bolt): The flash on your camera will usually cast a cool light on the subject, so this orange warms it back up. (Remember that I did not use my flash for these photographs, which is why this setting didn't work for my picture.)

Custom (a square and two triangles, almost looks like a flower): Some cameras, like my dSLR, have the ability to choose a custom white balance. First you take a photograph (in the same lighting conditions as your subject) of a white piece of paper, a grayscale card, or you can use an Expodisc (which was my choice). You then set your white balance to custom, and direct the camera to use the information from that image to set the white balance. It gave me the most accurate results:

Colour is measured by the Kelvin temperature scale, and many dSLRs will also let you choose a specific colour temperature on that scale. I'll admit that I just don't go that far when I shoot. Most of the time, I'm just grabbing my camera and shooting on AWB—I'm lucky if I'm fast enough to catch the kids doing what I wanted to capture. I do, however, tinker with my white balance when I have a bit more time. I find that the minute or two it takes me to set a white balance saves me half an hour (or more, depending on what I'm shooting) in post-processing. 

Play around with your white balance, and experiment. Sometimes you may purposely choose the "wrong" white balance setting to achieve a different feeling in your photograph. Do what works for you!

Happy shooting!

Looking for some photography help? Check out the other Photography 101 posts.


#YMCPhotoADay Challenge: May 2014

Share your photography with us!

#YMCPhotoADay Challenge: May 2014

Welome to the second month of the #YMCPhotoADay challenge! Thanks to those who participated in April, and hello to anyone who is just joining!

This is a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. Just follow the prompts below for each day in May, and take a photo that fits the theme in some way. Feel free to interpret the prompt in any way that suits you. You don't even need to take a picture every day if you don't want to, or if you forget. Just participate when you can!

You can take your pictures with ANY camera. In April, I took all of mine with my iPhone. This month, I'm hoping to drag out my dSLR a bit more. This exercise is about starting to notice the world around you in different ways.

We really want to see the pictures you take, so if you'd like to share, please use the hashtag #YMCPhotoADay when uploading your photos to a social media platform. If you'd like to see what everyone else is taking, you should check out Tagboard and search #YMCPhotoADay. All the photos posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Google+ with that hashtag will be aggregated into one place. (Note: if you post your photo on your personal blog or Flickr, but then link to it on one of those social networks and use the hashtag, it will still show up on Tagboard.) Remember, if you want everyone to be able to see your photos, confirm that your Twitter or Instagram account isn't set to private, and that your Facebook or Google+ posts are set to public for that photo. Be kind and leave encouraging comments for each other on those photo posts! 

Here are the prompts for May:

I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures. Happy shooting!

Looking for some photography help? Check out my Photography 101 posts.


Taking A Disney Trip? How To Get In Your Vacation Pictures

A Review of Disney's Memory Maker: An unsponsored post

Taking A Disney Trip? How To Get In Your Vacation Pictures

Ah, the Disney vacation—a popular destination for families with small (and not-so-small) children. It's a mix of magic, fun, and chaos wrapped into each day.

We've been extremely fortunate to be able to make the trip more than once over the past few years. My kids love it, and while we don't go at an all-out pace, it can still be a hectic time. As a result of the chaotic crowds, my hands are usually too full from holding smaller hands to let me take out my camera and get some great pictures. Since I'm the primary photographer in the family, if I don't take out the camera, the pictures don't happen.

Enter Disney's Memory Maker—their new digital product that replaced the old PhotoPass. (This is NOT a sponsored post. I've bought the Photo Pass and Memory Maker and think it was a great choice each time and am sharing my opinion.) If you purchase the Memory Maker product, you have unlimited access to all of the Disney photographers for the duration of your stay. These photographers are in every park, at every character meal, every character meet-and-greet, and they are also stationed near all the iconic Disney landmarks.

In addition, any ride that takes an "attraction photo" (for example, at the moment when you're screaming on Tower of Terror as it plunges) is also included in the Memory Maker product. (The attraction photos usually cost $15-$20 apiece.) You can download the photos each day (a definite improvement over the old PhotoPass, which you could just download at the end of your trip), and they stay in your account for 45 days before they are deleted. Register before your trip and then at each photographer, you just scan your magic band (the bracelet that Disney is now using for park passes) to have the photos automatically uploaded to your account. You can take as many photos that you need at each photographer, so there's no problem at all if you need to arrange different combinations of people in each shot.

It's not cheap—$150 if you purchase it before your trip, $199 if you purchase it when you get there; however, if you're travelling with friends or family, if you register all of your travel companions as "friends and family" on your MyDisneyExperience.com account, they can all share it! On this trip, we ended up with more than 200 photos. Some are duplicates and we were really not aggressive in seeking out the Disney photographers. When I spoke to other vacationers while standing in line, many of them told me that they had more than 400 photos by the end of their trip. One extended family even had over 1,000 photographs in their account when I spoke to them, and their trip wasn't over yet!

For us, it was worth the investment to come away with great photographs that I could actually be a part of.

A little tip: if the photographer asks you to do something a little strange, go with the flow. You might end up with something special . . .

Heading to Disney? Make sure you check out Doing Disney: 5 Magic-Making Tips For The Whole Family.