Tweaking white balance color balance

Here's a mind-bending example of the way your eyes and your camera see things completely differently. It turns out that different kinds of lightsregular incandescent lightbulbs, fluorescent office lighting, the suncast subtle tinges of color on everything they illuminate. When you shoot non-flash photos indoors or in open shade outside, you'll get a bluish or cool cast. If you shoot without a flash under incandescent lighting, then the shots will have a warm tint, mostly yellow and red.

So why haven't you ever noticed these different lighting artifacts? Because your brain compensates almost instantly for these different color temperatures. (Your brain does a lot of compensating for light. Ever noticed how your eyes adjust to a dark room after a couple of minutes?) Your camera, however, doesn't have a brain. It simply grabs whatever warm or cool tints it sees, and those tints can detract from your onscreen or printed photos. For example, portraits with warmer casts are generally more pleasing to the eye. But natural light from the window imparts a bluish cast, which isn't good for skin tones.

In the days of traditional film photography, you could compensate for (or correct) the color temperature by placing a screw-on filter over the lens. With a digital camera, you don't need any external accessories. Almost every digital camera lets you correct the color temperature by adjusting its white balance (sometimes called color balance).

Most cameras have a little knob or menu offering icons like the following (see Figure 3-8):

• A sun icon represents normal daylight conditions in direct light. (If you know about filters in film photography, the sun/daylight setting is equivalent to the Sky 1A filter.)

• A cloud icon is for overcast days, open shade, and window-illuminated interiors (81B warming filter).

• A lightbulb icon is for incandescent lighting (80A cooling filter).

• A bar-shaped icon is for fluorescent lighting (FLD fluorescent correction filter).

Tip: To warm up the skin tones in existing-light portraits (like the one in Figure 3-7), use the Cloudy white-balance setting.

Figure 3-8. Most digital cameras let you adjust color balance.

Sometimes the setting is labeled WB for white balance (essentially the same thing as color balance). Most of the time, you can leave this setting on Auto. But if the tones start looking too cool or too warm, you may want to override auto and make the adjustment yourself.

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Tip: When you're using the flash, change your camera's color balance from Auto to Cloudy. Electronic flashes tend to produce images that have a cool cast. Switching to the Cloudy setting on your digital camera warms them up nicely.

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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