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The auto white balance features on most cameras are very good; however, there will still be times when they may not yield the most accurate color reproduction. For example, a mixed-lighting situation, sunlight streaming into a fluorescently lit room, that type of situation can often confuse the auto white balance feature on your camera. Fortunately, your camera also has manual overrides for white balance. By default, your camera will be set to auto. Auto white balance mechanisms try to guess at what the best white balance is for your current light. At the simplest level, they might do this by finding the brightest thing in the scene--a bright highlight glinting off of metal, for example.
They assume that's white, and then they will analyze that area and choose a white balance setting that will reproduce that as white. Now that may not always work. If you were shooting some scene with a very heavy color cast, a white specular highlight might actually have a color cast to it, and that can throw off an auto white balance mechanism. Some cameras have more advanced mechanisms. For the most part, auto white balance will serve you very well for any normal type of lighting situation. Mixed lighting and shade can get you into trouble, and that's why you have some manual overrides.
The simplest manual overrides are simply white balance presets that are designed for shooting under specific types of light. We have a very simple set here; we have got some nicely colored flowers, sitting on a table. This is what my camera is delivering with auto white balance, and it looks pretty good. The thing to remember about white balance is that it's aiming for accurate color. It's not necessarily aiming for the aesthetic that you want. In this image, you might want your image a little warmer, or a little cooler, but it's best to start with accurate color because you can warm things up or cool things down later. But it's very difficult, if color is off, to do a warming or cooling that looks good if you don't start with accurate color.
So this is on auto white balance, and it's doing things pretty well. Watch what happens if I pull out my White Balance menu. I get all these little icons, and these are pretty typical icons for different white balance presets. If I switch to Daylight white balance, which is a little sun, you can see from Auto to Daylight I don't get a huge change. The image gets a little bit cooler, and by cooler I mean it goes a little more blue. Shade is not a huge difference. Neither is Cloudy. Our lights in here are balanced or set up to work to be the same color as daylight, so it's not that unusual that changing between these three and Auto-- it's not that strange that is not making that much of a difference.
Watch what happens though when I go to Tungsten. My image gets very, very blue. Now what's happening here is the camera is assuming that I am shooting under tungsten light, and it's recalibrated itself for tungsten. Unfortunately, I am not under tungsten, and so my colors are all wrong. This is what going to happen when your white balance is off. Similarly, I could be in auto mode and shooting in some kind of light where auto can't calculate things right. I might get something that looks like this. Moving on, this is White florescent. Some cameras will have several different florescent presets because there are different types of florescent lights.
This is also a little bit blue. And then Flash White balance, if you are working with your flash, you know you are going to be working with your flash, sometimes switching over to flash white balance will make a difference. I rarely find that it does a better job than auto. This is a completely manual white balance that we are going to discuss in a later movie, and then finally, there is this big K over here. Lights are measured on a Kelvin scale, so if I know the temperature of my light in degrees Kelvin, I can actually just dial that in by hand. So we are set to 4300 here.
I can go up here closer to where daylight is. So if you know for sure that temperature of your light, you can dial that in there. Your camera may or may not have that feature. So the most important thing to know about white balance is that it's something you need to pay attention to. So, just as you had to develop the habit of half-pressing the shutter button and taking note of your shutter speed, you really need to develop a habit of paying attention to when you're changing the type of light that you're under. I am here under daylight lighting here. If I go outside into a fluorescently lit room to take a picture, I have to be aware that my lighting has changed and that that might compromise my white balance.
Now a lot of people when they think about white balance, they go, "Oh, I'll fix it in my image editor." Fixing a bad white balance is an edit that just almost next to impossible to pull off, unless you're shooting in RAW, which we'll talk about later. You don't want to think of your image editor as a crutch for bad white balance. If you look at, again, at one of these bad white balances, this blue cast that we have got, it has gone through every color tone that we have. The red is a little too blue, the yellow is little too blue, but it's gone in varying degrees.
Thinking well, I will just pull some blue out, it's not actually going to get your image back to where it needs to be, and it will mean that you've already edited your image a whole bunch before you even get to any other edits that you want, and that can lead to more problems later. So it's critical that when you come into a situation that you know your auto white balance can't handle, that you take action and switch to a manual white balance. Now if you want, you can sit down with your auto white balance mode and test it out in different lightings, try and find its weak spots. And one of the most--one of the times you'll most often make a white balance trouble is you go into a situation like shade or tungsten lighting, where maybe you're feeling confident because well, my auto white balance doesn't work very well in shade.
I am switching to Shade white balance and taking some pictures. Great! I am on my way, and you forget to change it back to auto. So try and also develop the habit of if you have made a white balance change, put it back on auto after you're done. That will save you from shooting back in, say, daylight with a bad white balance. There is more manual white balance control you can take, and we will look at that in the next lesson.
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