Understanding White Balance & Why It's Important - Ld
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Understanding White Balance & Why It's Important

Happy Monday! I feel like I start out every blog post with that greeting, but Mondays need a little extra ‘oomph’ sometimes, don’t you think?

Anyway, today I want to introduce a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while, because it is something that can really make or break a picture. It is something that I personally spend extra time on to be sure I set it right, or tweak while editing my pictures. This topic is: white balance.

Have you ever taken a picture and later noticed that your subject doesn't look the same as when you took it? Have you ever taken a picture and noticed the coloring is off (for example the picture has a blue or yellowish tint to it). If so, an incorrect white balance may have been the culprit.

So, what is white balance? Basically, white balance helps the colors in your picture come out as accurate as possible (assuming the white balance is set right).

How can you set your white balance to ensure your colors come out properly? Well I’ll tell you. It’s actually pretty easy!

Most cameras (even many smart phones) have different settings for white balance that you can set before taking a picture based on the lighting that you’re taking said picture in. If you forget or set it to the wrong white balance setting, you can alter white balance in most photo editing software.

If you’re changing the white balance in your camera, most of the time this can be found in the main menu. You should consult your camera manual if you are having trouble finding it.

My camera has the option on the main screen and is designated by a ‘WB’ on the right hand side of the screen.

From there you can go into the white balance menu and you get a variety of options to choose from.

 Here are some of the standard (not all are shown on my camera screen) options you might see for white balance. For you visual learners like me,  if you scroll down, I will show examples of each type of white balance option in picture form. I thought it would be beneficial to explain what each was first however, so you can better understand:

Auto - your camera will pick what it thinks is the best option. This is generally a fine white balance selection to pick, but if shooting indoors or in tricky light-situations, you will probably want to select a different option. 

Cloudy - good for shooting on cloudy days. Will add warm tones to your picture(s). The symbol for this setting is usually a cloud.

Daylight  - good for shooting on sunny days in the sun. Will add cool tones to your picture(s). The symbol for this setting is usually a sun.

Shade - good for shooting on sunny days in the shade. Will add warm tones to your picture(s). The symbol for this setting is usually a house with a shaded side (see picture above, fourth option from top).

Flash - select this option if using a flash to take your picture(s). The flash will add cooler tones to your picture, so the flash white balance option will add warm tones back in. This symbol is usually the flash arrow that points down (second from top in picture above). 

Fluorescent - this will counteract the cooler hues fluorescent lighting tends to cast by adding warm tones to your picture. Perfect for shooting indoors. The symbol for this setting on my camera is a rectangle with what looks like little lights in it.

Tungsten (incandescent lighting) - this setting is another good one for indoor shooting and will add cooler tones to your picture. This is because most incandescent lighting will add warm hues to your picture. The symbol for this setting is usually a light bulb. 

Custom - this setting is a manual white balance setting. I don't honestly use this setting much for nature photography, but have used it for taking people pictures. By using this method, you are essentially telling your camera what color white is so that is can properly adjust the other colors in the picture. You can do this by using a sheet of white paper or tagboard, or many photographers have a 'grey card' that helps the photographer get the right white balance. 

Auto - White Balance

Cloudy - White Balance

Daylight - White Balance

Flash - White Balance

Fluorescent - White Balance

Shade - White Balance

Tungsten - White Balance

As you can see from the pictures above, it is really important to select either auto or the correct white balance setting for the light you are photographing in. This particular photograph I edited in Photoshop to show you the difference. 

On this particular day, the lighting was cloudy, so when the Auto white balance option was selected it was a mix between cloudy and shade. 

These next examples are of indoor light. 

Auto - White Balance

Cloudy - White Balance

Daylight - White Balance

Flash - White Balance

Fluorescent - White Balance

Shade - White Balance

Tungsten - White Balance

The orchid pictures above I took in my house under a regular Ikea lamp. I took them at night so there was no outside light influence. As you can see, like in the loon pictures, it makes a big difference as to what you select for an option! Again, the Auto setting was a cross between the tungsten and fluorescent settings. 

This week's takeaway:

-White balance is a setting in your camera or photo editing software that can help bring your colors to their accurate state.

-Auto can be a great place to keep your white balance setting on, but to have more control or for tricky lighting situations, other options may be more useful. 

-Most cameras and even smart phones have an option to change white balance

-There are a variety of white balance settings for different lighting situations

Have you heard of white balance before? Do you feel more comfortable trying out different settings? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy photographing!

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