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Understanding White Balance


Understanding White Balance

'If you come from the world of films, you may remember using filters to correct for incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Most people don't bother and their indoors pictures invariably come out with a yellow/orange or bluish cast. In the digital world, these correction filters are no longer necessary, replaced by a feature found in most -- even the entry-level -- digital cameras called, "White Balance."'

Another explanation is found here.

Using White Balance

Kris Butler


Q: Many of my indoor photos seem to have mediocre colors or even yellowish brown color tinges? What can I do to fix this?

A: The problem you are experiencing is a very common one that results from a lack of white balance. You can easily and dramatically improve your success rate when shooting digital photos indoors by using your camera's white balance feature.

Why do white balance problems happen? Well, the fact of the matter is that regular indoor light can present some of very tricky shooting scenarios. Below, is an explanation of what you need to know.

Enough Light Not Necessarily Enough
This intuition-challenging fact arises because in many cases there seems to be enough light for good photos. So, if we have our cameras set on auto-flash, as is usually the case by default, the flash will often fail to fire because the camera agrees that there is plenty of light. The difficulty and likelihood of so-so or poor pictures results from the fact that indoor light is often the wrong kind of light.

And why is that? Because fluorescent, halogen and tungsten (a.k.a. incandescent or standard) bulbs emit color tones the human eye can't see, but that cameras pick up. These color tones then discolor the resulting photo in a way that unfortunately we can see onscreen or in print.

White Balance vs. Flash
"OK," you may say, "but can't I simply use my flash to override this effect?" Yes, you can, but in various circumstances you may either not want to use your flash, or you may be able to achieve better control and results using white balance.

For example, if your indoor setting includes various reflective surfaces that you can't or don't want to eliminate, you will likely not want to use your flash, but rather opt for white balance.

Another reason might be that you'd like to shoot a series of photos quickly and not using your flash will speed things up because you won't have to wait repeatedly for it to recycle and be ready to fire again. In these cases and others using white balance is preferable.

What to Do
1. Switch your camera into manual exposure mode.

2. Select the W.B. to bring up a list of specific white balance options.

3. Assess the particular indoor light source or sources you're contending with and make the appropriate choice in the list. Many digital camera have 5 options to choose from: Auto, Outdoor (Daylight), White Fluorescent, Standard Fluorescent, and Incandescent (Tungsten or Halogen). If there is a combination of light sources, try using one form of white balance and then the other to ensure you get a good picture.

4. Take your picture.

5. If you are taking important, once-in-a-lifetime pictures, you should also bracket your shot by using a range of E.V. settings. However, simply taking the time to set the correct W.B. setting will definitely ensure you get a better photo.

An excellent illustrated tutorial can be read by clicking here.

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