Saturday, April 3, 2010

White Balance

Okay, White Balance is what I researched a little today. What did I find out, well...white balance is pretty important when it comes to taking a picture and trying to capture the true color that you are seeing at the moment. Another approach to white balance (WB) is if you want to take a picture and try to get creative, to make the photo look more cool or warm.

I know these images are pretty fancy, right! Well, I was just trying to experiment with all the presets. The first one is of my husband, and he has no idea that these pictures were posted here. Hee! Hee! Anyhow, the first one on the left was taken with the Shady preset as suggested later in this post. But, there was a lot of clouds out today, so I am not too sure this is the best example to show. I guess something is better than nothing. The second picture of him is the Auto setting. Now to the ever so impressive shots of my converse, these were taken inside the house with natural light only. The first photo to the left is Direct Sunlight preset for WB. The second was the Shady preset and the last one is Auto WB preset. Which one do you like more? I actually like the Shady preset for the converse and Jesse. Hmmm... Something to consider.

I have read the section about WB in my Nikon D90 Manual 3x's now, and am starting to understand more each time I read it...still, there is more for me to learn. My camera has several presets for WB: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, K (choose color temp), and Pre Preset manual. Of these presets, from what I have read from several different sites...the Auto preset isn't the greatest for direct sunlight. The preferred WB setting would be Cloudy -3, which apparently is a pro photographer secret. Now, I haven't tried this yet, since it was crazy gloomy today...but I will. I am wondering if the -3 is EV or Mired, I am guessing Mired. Which I need to research more! I know that it involves a change in color, the colors being amber, blue, green, and magenta. So, I guess that will have to come another day. Another site suggested shooting in the sun with the Shady preset for WB. Again, I have to wait until it clears up around here to give this one a shot.

A cool thing on the D90 is the Pre Preset Manual WB, which allows me to set and save 4 or 5 different WB setting based on either an actual picture or ones that I program in myself. I can program ones that I use on a regular basis in difficult lighting, which would be inside the house when I have sunlight shining in through a window, combined with incandescent lights in the house, tv, and who knows what else. Which is something that I am going to have to play with to figure out the right WB settings to use.

Here is a chart that I found showing the different temperatures of light that I might come across while taking a photograph. I found this information at . This information would be useful if I decided to take advantage of the WB preset called "K", where I choose the temperature myself.

Color Temp
Light Source (in the roughest sense)

Candles, some flashlights


Household bulb, used

Household bulb, new / some studio lights

Sunrise / sunset (without the influence of heavy smog/smoke)

Fluorescent bulbs, cool white - "daylight" balances

Electronic Flash, portable (new bulb)

Studio Electronic Flash (new bulb)

Sunlight, bright day

"slight" overcast skies at lower elevations

Heavy overcast / slight shade

Rain at lower elevations / clear day at higher elevations (above 8000 feet)

Overcast to snowy days at higher elevations (above 8000 feet)

This photographer likes to shoot with an 81A lens filter, which helps warm up his pictures, which most people like. I do not have this filter, but in Photoshop Elements 7, in the Adjustment Layer icon (black/white circle above the layers palette)this photo filter can be found.

Another site I really found very useful was this one

Here is a description of the different effects of each of the presets my camera has.

AUTO (also called AWB) mode works OK with flash and indoors and outdoors. Usually the images will still be fairly blue in shade and pleasantly warm indoors at night. When the flash is on most cameras automatically switch to flash white balance.

The fun starts when you take it out of AUTO and set it yourself. Here's what the other settings do:

Tungsten (symbol of a light bulb also called "indoor"): Very, very blue most of the time except indoors at night, for which it looks normal. "Tungsten" is the name of the metal out of which the bulb's filament is made. Even indoors many people prefer the warmer AUTO setting. TRICK: Set -1 or -2 exposure compensation and use this setting in daylight to simulate night! In Hollywood we call this "day for night."

Daylight (symbol of a sun): Bluish normal. This is a little bit bluer than I usually prefer. Only use it for shooting test charts in direct sunlight.

Cloudy (symbol of a cloud): I prefer this. It's a little warmer than the daylight setting and best for most shots outdoors in direct sunlight. Why not the daylight setting? The camera manuals are written by engineers, not artists. The engineers are interested in copying color test charts, not making a good photo. I prefer things on the warmer side.

Flash (symbol of a lighting bolt): Almost identical to cloudy but sometimes redder depending on the camera. Use this the same way. On Nikons like the D70 you usually can set separate fine-tuned adjustments for each setting, so you can set different adjustments under cloudy and flash for quick access. This is optimized for the little on-camera flashes that tend to be blue, thus this setting tends to be warm to compensate. With large studio strobes you probably don't want to use this, since the images may be too red. Try the Daylight setting to match carefully daylight balanced studio strobes.

Shade (symbol of a house casting a shadow): Very orange. This is perfect for shooting in shade, since shade is so blue. It's also for shooting when you are under a cloud on a partly cloudy day since most of the light is coming from the blue sky. It's also for shooting in backlight, again since the subject is lit more by the blue sky instead of the direct sunlight. TIP: Some cameras skip this critical setting. If so, manually set the CUSTOM preset while in shade (also called one-push, Manual and white card and other things depending on manufacturer) and use this setting in place of the missing shade setting. TIP: I often use this mode even in direct sun when I want to make things look warm and inviting. Try it and you'll probably love it. The SHADE setting is a professional secret for getting great images, pass it on!

Fluorescent (symbol of a long rectangle or Fluorescent tube): Use this if your photos are too green or under Fluorescent, mercury, HMI or metal halide lights as you might find in street lights. It will make other things look a bit purplish. With Nikons the fine-tuning adjustment (+-3) is much stronger in this setting and adjusts from fairly warm to fairly cool. Because of this you may not be able to get the exact color you want under Fluorescent lighting, in which case try AUTO or preset.

Fine Tuning (+3 to -3): Color is critical. The basic settings above get you close, but probably not exactly what you want. These fine adjustments allow you to get the exact amount of coolness or warmth. + is cooler and - is warmer. Nikons allow you to adjust this and remembers your preference for every setting while the Canons often skip this. Without the ability to fine tune these settings I find the Canon Rebel, 300D and 10D cameras not very useful. One can even fine tune Nikon's AUTO setting. Most photos on my D70 are made in AUTO -3.

Another tid bit came from the Crown Camera class I took last week. The instructor mentioned a Expodisc, which automatically will aid in manual setting of white balance. This comes at a cost of $120 or so though. Apparently, it is better than using a white piece of paper and snapping a shot to set WB, since it takes in light from all angles, while the paper does not. Another site said that a Expocap would be a cheaper alternative and pretty good, better than the sheet of paper. It is important to remember that WB is going to change per shot depending on the lighting, so if shooting with direct sun and moving to shade a second later, you will have to reset WB. Personally, I think I should at least become very familiar with what my camera has to offer before I add any new gadgets. Even though, this expodisc sounds pretty cool.


  1. I'm loving your going to help me immensely!!! My dad tried to debate me tonight about photography...he's trying to remember 30 years back. He was trying to tell me that aperture doesn't have anything to do with depth of I had to email him a link to the NIKON site tonight to prove I"M RIGHT! LOL

  2. Too funny, 30 years is a long time.