April 13, 2011

#15 - Change your white balance to fix colours.

Your bathtub isn’t supposed to be orange.

Your living room shouldn’t be green. The sun shouldn’t shine blue. So why do they look that way on the back of your camera?

Blame the colour of your light.

Different types of light are different colours – actually, they’re different temperatures that get expressed as different colours in a camera. Flourescenets are green for example. Sunsets can be orange. Your camera knows this and can compensate so everything looks nice and white. That compensation is called “white balance” and it’s available on every single point-and-shoot digital camera made today.

Problem is, your camera can mess up and assign the wrong white balance to the wrong scene. If you’re shooting in a room with windows (daylight) and fluorescent lights, you’re going to have two competing colours. If your camera is set to “Auto” white balance, it might choose a daylight setting for the windows, making the fluorescents look weird. It might pick the fluorescents, making the daylight look weird. Or it might get creative and pick something else entirely to make everything look weird.

So how do you make everything look better? Here’s how:

Set your own white balance.
Your camera comes with built-in white balance settings for all sorts of situations – tungsten, fluorescent, cloudy, etc. Crack open the manual and figure out how to set the right one for the right lighting instead of defaulting to “Auto.” white balance.

Pick one colour.
There are going to be lots of times that you’re going to have to deal with a couple of different light sources. You have a couple of options here. You can pick one as your dominant light and be ok with the other one looking different. You can turn off the offending lights so you’re dealing with fewer colours. Or you can convert everything to black and white – voila, no more colour problems.

Remember your flash.
Using your flash? It’s going to be a different colour than just about anything other than daylight. You can turn it off – or you can put a piece of coloured acetate over top (called a “gel.”) that’s the same colour as the light in the room. This makes all the light exactly the same.

Try messing things up yourself.
Weird colour can be funky colour. Play around with your white balance and see what kind of combinations you can end up with.
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