Have you ever looked at a beautiful scene and just had to take a picture of it? Did you get home and look at the shot, just to notice that the colors were off? It didn’t even come close to capturing the beauty you just witnessed. In fact, the photo kind of looked awful.
What went wrong? Did you somehow take the picture wrong? What happened?The lack of white balance is most likely the reason for the colors being off in your photo. It’s an important tool that tends to get overlooked quite often. Let’s learn more below!
How Color Effects Photography
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You might be surprised at how much control you have over color and light when you’re taking a photo. People think of color affecting paintings and illustrations, but it can definitely make or break photos too.
- Color is a little different with photography than with other types of art. It’s a little more scientific.
- Color and light are connected in a deep way. Objects in images are only visible because of the light they reflect. Colored objects look colored because they take in some wavelengths and then reflect them onto others.
What Exactly is a Kelvin and Why Does It Matter?
These wavelengths that objects absorb and give out are called Kelvins. Many people refer to them as the temperature of the light. Though it doesn’t have anything to do with the heat it does or doesn’t give off. The scale was discovered by different physics experiments. These experiments looked at the wavelengths of light made by heating black objects to different temperatures. Color temperatures range from cool, which is blue, to warm, which is orange. Sunlight at noon is supposed to be the true neutral, white, and all other types of light are compared to it.
The amount of light that is within a scene will affect the amount of color that is in an object. This means that depending on the lighting, red will appear redder, etc. This is why sometimes your photos can look weirdly blue or pale. Intense light will also make everything look washed out, as well.
Disconnect Between Your Camera and Your Brain
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The reason you see a scene differently than your camera has to do with your brain. Your brain is, of course, much smarter than your camera. When lighting is off, your brain automatically compensates for it. So, no matter what the lighting actually is, your mind will adjust what you are seeing – and objects will be the correct color.
Now, you might not believe this because you always see light as a single color. Your brain is so good that it automatically corrects your vision before you even notice something is off. Impressive, right?
However, your camera doesn’t technically have this function. The closest it can get is the Auto mode – though it’s not nearly as accurate as your brain, and it basically guesses what the balance is.
Why White Balance Matters in Your Photos?
White balance is the bridge for the disconnect between your brain and camera. It’s a setting on your camera that helps control how colors look in different types of light. To get the right balance, you need to take into account the color temperature of the light within the scene.
Using your white balance will get rid of unwanted colors that can mess with your image. It will adjust the colors so you can make the image look like what you saw with your own eyes.
Does White Balance Affect Shooting RAW
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Most photographers think that white balance doesn’t matter with using RAW files because you can easily fix things in post editing. This is because RAW keeps all the color data that your camera grabs. It’s just a matter of a few clicks and you’re done.
However, keep in mind this technique doesn’t work as well on other file types.
There really isn’t a yes or no answer when it comes to RAW files. It all really depends on your preference. If you hate editing, then you will definitely want to use the balance right away. It’s also a great form to use while you are getting used to using your white balance.
Different Ways to Change the White Balance on Cameras
On digital cameras, you can use a few different settings to adjust the white balance. Depending the image and lighting, some will give better results than others. Luckily, many of these are clearly labeled for each situation:
This setting means that your camera will pick the balance based on the scene you’re photographing. It does this by looking for something white within the scene to compare the lighting to. While this sounds convenient, it’s not exactly accurate. It doesn’t get quite the right balance fairly often, and so and the colors get thrown off. This will happen especially if there is nothing white in the scene. Auto will try to find the next best thing, which doesn’t really work.
It also can’t really handle complex lighting, like when there are multiple sources of light. It can’t take the different lighting into consideration as it’s deciding. Remember, your brain and your eyes are infinitely better at this than any camera ever will be.You would be surprised at how different each photo can be with this setting when they are taken within seconds of each other. Something as small as a cloud will change everything. Sometimes, the Auto function will even correct colors that you don’t want changed, like with sunsets.
You use this setting when you are indoors with incandescent lights. These lights have an orange hue to them, so you can balance everything by adding some blue. If you don’t use this setting, then you will get weirdly orange photos. They may even turn out to look like old-fashioned pictures.
This is for shooting indoors with fluorescent lights. These lights are mostly neutral, but can give a little hint of blue. So, this setting warms things up with a bit with orange – that way everything looks like it’s supposed to.
You use this setting when you’re outdoors and the sun is super bright. Sunlight is pretty neutral, so you can use blue or orange depending on the situation. This is one of those settings that can depend on your preference. Depending on your aim for the image, you can pick a warmer or cooler tone.
Use this setting when it’s cloudy outside. Using a warmer tint here will make things stand out more than they would normally. It helps get rid of the grayness.
Light that comes from a flash is a cool temperature, so it needs a warmer tint to balance everything out.
Everything is a little darker in the shade, so images need some warm tones to balance it out. This also works for low-lighting situations.
If you want to, you can take full control of your camera’s white balance. You can set it in terms of Kelvin, which ranges from 2,500K to 10,000K.
2,500K is a deep blue tint, while 10,000K is a deep orange. Some cameras have an option of making a custom white balance. You can do this with the help of a white card. Once you get the hang of this setting, you can do some experimenting and make some really cool images. This is where you can let your artistic side shine.
You Don’t Need to Always Use White Balance
After all that writing about how important white balance is, you should know that you don’t always have to use it. Once you’ve mastered how to do it and you can tell a difference between a properly balanced photo and one that is off, then you are free to do what you want.
Maybe you want your photos to be warmer because you like the emotion it gives. Maybe you want to have your photos on the cooler side because you like how it looks.
Even with all the technical terms and details, remember, photography is still an art form. You should create your art however you like.