• Jennifer
  • posted by Jennifer

  • Today we are going to talk a little more about why you shouldn't use auto white balance. We've talked about color cast, setting white balance using your presets in your camera to overcome color casts, and color temperature.

    In auto, the camera guesses what white balance to use depending on the available light. In 95% of these instances, the guess results in a nicely colored photograph. This is a perfect setting for times when you're unsure what white balance to choose.

    Certain subjects create problems for a digital camera's auto white balance - even under normal daylight conditions. One example is if the image already has an overabundance of warmth or coolness due to unique subject matter. For example, if the subject is predominantly red, the camera mistakes this for a color cast induced by a warm light source. The camera then tries to compensate for this so that the average color of the image is closer to neutral, but in doing so it unknowingly creates a bluish color cast. Some digital cameras are more susceptible to this than others.

    A digital camera's auto white balance is often more effective when the photo contains at least one white or bright colorless element. Of course, do not try to change your composition to include a colorless object, but just be aware that its absence may cause problems with the auto white balance.

    Photos taken indoors while cloudy outside can pose a problem too. Way too blue and ugly! 99% of people take this shot and never think anything more about it. If you think about these mixed lighting conditions, as in this example, indoors with tungsten bulbs near large windows where's it's cloudy - the camera has to determine your kelvin setting to be someplace between 2500-7500 which is a very broad range. And if you slightly change your subject direction, this setting will be completely different when on auto.

    In this example of Mike and Nicole, we were shooting indoors, and I purposely placed them facing the natural light coming from windows. However, you can totally see the warm light coming from the indoor lights at the bar behind them. In this case, I used a manual setting to get the look I wanted. Can you cheat by looking at your image preview to see how your Kelvin setting looks? Sure you can and then adjust as you see fit. In this case my Kelvin temperature was set based on the natural light being my primary light source on their faces, and not based on the indoor lights behind them.

  • manual white balance

  • If you are shooting RAW (which we've never talked about yet, and by the way we do not shoot in RAW still, yes I know I get a lot of slack about this from my photographer friends), you should be able to set the correct white balance while editing later. However, when using auto white balance it does not provide shot to shot consistency, and it makes editing later more difficult.

    The bottom line is that auto white balance is only as good as the camera guess-timates. When possible, be sure to set your white balance yourself on the appropriate light setting. You can get back to the monthly table of contents of Taking Better Blog Photos via our Day 1 post.

    To join this FREE 31 Day series simply sign up HERE to have each day's topic delivered to your inbox. Eventually this series, as well as other photography tips will be added to my new site www.healthylivinghappyhome.com (which is not up yet), so another reason to sign up now is that you will be the first to receive new information as the new site goes live!

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