Ever take a photograph of a winter landscape and have it come out looking pale grey or even light blue? That is the camera’s white balance misbehaving, and while you can go ahead and manually “tinker” with the different settings, there is a much easier approach. Before we go into a discussion about that approach, however, let’s take a quick second to understand the underlying problem.
We already said that it all begins with a bit of bad behaviour by a camera’s white balance setting. This is the method that your camera uses to interpret pure white, or more officially, it is the way that the camera is interpreting the colour “temperature” of the light source. When it is inaccurate, it gives the entire photograph a colour cast or hue that is terribly wrong.
So, if you want to get sharper and clearer whites in a photograph, such as that snow scene mentioned at the opening of this article, you have to find a way to trick the camera into seeing things correctly. This is done through the use of a “neutral reference” in the scene. Neutral means a shade that seems to be a colour that represents the way the photographer sees white in the actual scene.
For example, let’s say you are shooting a hazy day at the sea, and your scene is comprised of mostly black rocks, bluish grey water, and an equally bluish grey sky. You could use the breast of a seabird or a white shell or stone to train your camera to see white under those conditions.
Alternately, you could obtain grey cards to carry with you, thereby avoiding trouble if there is no neutral reference available. These are pre-printed cards or found objects that contain certain percentages of grey, and which tell the camera’s white balance how to adjust to a more accurate rendering of the colour temperature of the light source.
For instance, let’s say that you are focusing the camera towards a white wall. The automatic white balance may read that wall incorrectly and over or underexpose the scene. This might reveal the white wall as a pale grey instead. If you use the 18% grey card (which is the most commonly selected), point the camera at it and take a single exposure, it is going to train the camera to interpret the white wall correctly in the next photograph. You can also document the way that the camera reads the grey card in manually, and adjust the settings accordingly.
About the Author
Amy Renfrey is the author of two major successful ebooks “Digital Photography Success” and “Advanced Digital Photography”. She is a photographer and also teaches digital photography. Her educational ebooks takes the most complex photography terms and turns them into easy to understand language so that anyone, at any level of photography, can easily move to a semi-professional level of skill in just a very short time. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (Drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students which can be found at http://www.DigitalPhotographySuccess.com
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