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Understanding White Balance and a Few Tips to Master It

Why is White Balance So Important?

Have you ever taken photographs without flash indoors and wondered why the subjects look so orange? Well, that’s simply because the white balance isn’t right! Mastering white balance is crucial for capturing natural colors and skin tones in your photographs. But that’s easier said than done as white balance can be rather tricky to master, especially if you are a beginner. However, with just a little understanding, you can get the white balance right and make your photographs look great!

What is White Balance?

White balance (WB) is considered one of the most important settings of a camera. Basically, it’s an adjustment to make sure the subjects that appear white in person are also rendered white in your photograph. By setting your white balance accurately, you can prevent unrealistic color casts in your images that can ruin the whole effect. In this article, we will discuss a few useful tips to help you deal with that.

3 Tips for Perfect White Balance

1. Use Live View

Most DSLR cameras today come with the Live View capability, which allows you to view how each white balance setting will affect the photograph. If you have seen the LCD of a digital camera while adjusting the white balance, you may have noticed how the colors change accordingly. Most people think this isn’t possible with a DSLR, especially since we mostly look through the viewfinder during shoots. However, with many DSLRs featuring Live View, you can now check how the photographs will turn out under different settings.

2. Use RAW

Not so long ago, the RAW vs. JPG debate used to be much bigger. However, now that camera processing speeds are and storage is cheaper, there really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t shoot using RAW. There are primarily two reasons to use RAW in relation to skin tone, which we would like to bring to your attention:

  • The ability to adjust white balance/color temperature in the editing stage.
  • The size of a RAW image is considerably greater as compared to a JPEG file.

Most of the times we find ourselves setting the white balance manually during the shoot, but if we can’t nail the color temperature then, with RAW, it can be adjusted afterwards to give your subjects the most appealing skin tone possible. Moreover, as RAW files are larger, we can get things perfect by making fine adjustments.

3. Use Custom WB

Although you can always shoot using the predefined white balance options in your camera (such as Fluorescent, Daylight, Tungsten and Shadow, among others), specific color temperatures can also be set using Kelvin, the unit for measuring color. In fact, most cameras also allow you to set a custom white balance.

The ways to set the custom white balance will differ from camera to camera, but the usual process is to photograph something and tell the camera to use it as a reference point for the custom white balance. For instance, if you photograph a Gray Card and set that image as the custom white balance source, all the images you will take abide by the set white balance unless you choose another option or change it.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, pay close attention and managing the final white balance of your shots is a great way to improve the depth and overall quality of your photographs! A lot is conveyed through the quality and color of the light captured, so make sure you take those extra few moments to get it right. It’s worth the trouble!

February 4, 2016

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