Tip of the Week: White Balance

Posted on November 27, 2014

Often when we take a picture the image does not look the way it did to our eye. There are a lot of things that can cause this, but if it has to do with the color of your image, odds are pretty good changing your white balance can help. Your eyes can adjust to different colors of light very easily. Your camera does its best to give you a neutral shot (like daylight), but in tricky situations a it can often get this wrong.

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The image on the left is the result of a common problem, especially with indoor family photos. In auto mode the camera used its flash. The light from the flash is similar to the color of daylight. Most lights we have in our homes are much more yellow, orange or pinkish than daylight. The flash made our model look more or less normal in color, but the background light in the room is a weird pinkish-orange. For the shot on the right, I turned the flash off and raised the ISO setting in the camera (some cameras have better results than others with this). A higher ISO makes the camera more light sensitive. The resulting image looks closer to the way your eye would have seen a person in that room-both in color and also the way the shadows fall.

A sunrise or sunset has very warm light. The auto white balance in your camera is still trying to choose a neutral (daylight) tone. Because of this the result is usually an odd pastel look to the color of your image instead of the beautiful sunset you remember. By setting your camera’s white balance manually to the “daylight” setting (often resembling the sun), you are telling it how to shoot and you will see those warm colors maintained in your pictures.

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The image on the right is much closer to the only warm thing in Norway during winter, its sunset light. When the decision is left to the camera, it tries to strip the warmth to deliver a neutral “daytime” color palate.


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