The Great Journey in Photography

Colors & White Balance

Ring Billed Gull Hanging Out at Bolsa Chica

300mm f7.1 250iso 1/1600sec

This week I have been putting together a photo book using the latest version of iPhoto on the Mac. It is the first one I have done and I will reserve any final comments until I get the prints back but this is one slick way to do a photo book. The UI is absolutely gorgeous and the layout options are numerous. As far as I can tell this service is going to be phenomenal and I will report back in the next few weeks.

One of the problems I encountered doing the book was an issue of white balance in a series of photographs taken at the same time being placed on the same page in the book. In short the white balance was different in a couple of images. fortunately, I had the RAW images of all my photos so it was not a big deal to go back and reprocess those images. First lesson is to always save those RAW files because you never know when you will need them again.

From Wikipedia, here is an explanation of white balance:

Sometimes the adjustment to keep neutrals neutral is called white balance, and the phrase color balance refers to the adjustment that in addition makes other colors in a displayed image appear to have the same general appearance as the colors in an original scene.  It is particularly important that neutral (gray, achromatic, white) colors in a scene appear neutral in the reproduction. Hence, the special case of balancing the neutral colors (sometimesgray balanceneutral balance, or white balance) is a particularly important – perhaps dominant – element of color balancing.

Another tip is to use a consistent white balance setting in your camera. Avoid using auto white balance. If you can, set the white balance manually. For me personally, I don’t usually do that because I am typically in different lighting conditions and I just don’t have the attention span to set a proper white balance every time. What I do is set one white balance, usually sunny daylight, and shoot all my photos on that setting. That way when the white balance is off all the images will be the same so it is easy to set the balance on just one image and batch process the rest.

Look for a place that is white in a scene and make a note of it. Often birds will have a patch somewhere that you know should be white, use that spot as a reference to set the balance using the tool in most software editing software. I usually use Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW and both of those applications have easy to use eyedropper style tools to set a white point.

You can also use the white balance as a creative tool. Just run through the various presets like “Sunny, Shade, Flash, tungsten” and you will see some interesting color effects. One creative technique I use (and this is the one that got me into trouble in the book) for golden hour shots is to set the overall white balance on the cool or blue side and then come back with a warming filter layer mask  and paint in the spots that you want to highlight being kissed by the sunlight. This works in both Photoshop and Lightroom. I am sure there are other ways of doing the same thing but that is something I like to do. It will give your images that extra little boost but like most things a little goes a long way.

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