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Photography 101
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White balance options


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Photography 101

with Joseph Linaschke

Video: White balance options

White balance is one of these topics that you probably don't really need to understand that well, but it can be fun or just interesting to understand what's going on. So first, a little bit of a description. Most visible light falls within a range of about 2,000 degrees Kelvin up to maybe 7 or 8,000 degrees Kelvin. And this is the light that we'll see around us every day. Daylight falls between 5,000 and 5,500 degrees Kelvin. But all you really need to know is that if your White Balance isn't set correctly, you could end up with a scene like this, that's too warm, see it's kind of yellow or orangish colored.

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Photography 101
2h 9m Beginner Mar 21, 2012

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Today's cameras put an amazing amount of power in the hands of amateur photographers, but it's not always easy to make use of it. All those buttons, dials, and settings can be pretty intimidating. In this workshop, expert photographer Joseph Linaschke helps you understand what's going on inside your camera, explaining fundamentals like what an aperture is and how shutter speed works. Learn basics such as how to hold the camera, what various modes mean and when to use them, and even how and when to use the camera's flash. There's also creative instruction to guide you towards becoming a better photographer. As you become more comfortable with your gear, you'll find that many new creative possibilities open up for you and the quality of your photography improves.

Topics include:
  • Carry and hold that DSLR like a pro
  • Stabilizing the camera: from hands to water glasses to tripods
  • Using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO
  • What the buttons do
  • Manually controlling your autofocus
  • Working with flash
  • Thinking creatively
  • Buying new gear
Subjects:
Photography Cameras + Gear Photography Foundations video2brain
Author:
Joseph Linaschke

White balance options

White balance is one of these topics that you probably don't really need to understand that well, but it can be fun or just interesting to understand what's going on. So first, a little bit of a description. Most visible light falls within a range of about 2,000 degrees Kelvin up to maybe 7 or 8,000 degrees Kelvin. And this is the light that we'll see around us every day. Daylight falls between 5,000 and 5,500 degrees Kelvin. But all you really need to know is that if your White Balance isn't set correctly, you could end up with a scene like this, that's too warm, see it's kind of yellow or orangish colored.

Or if you go the other direction, it looks too cold, like this and now everything looks blue. Notice the white behind me has gone very blue and my skin tone's not right at all. Most of the time, if we're shooting something, we want it to be corrected White Balance, so it looks like this. Now, we have something, that is correctly accurately white balanced. The white behind me actually looks white, and my skin tones look natural. Again, you might want to make a creative decision to go the other way, but for the most part, this is what we want. Now, the good news is that modern DSLRs do a remarkable job of picking out the right White Balance automatically.

You set it to Auto White Balance, and it figures it out. And the reason this is important is because we're very rarely in a situation where the color temperature is exact and consistent. Here in the studio, we're working with a very particular White Balance. So, the video cameras or if I was going to shoot with a still camera, would be set to a very specific locked White Balance. But in the real world, you're more likely dealing with a mixed light situation. You might have sunlight coming in from outside, and then a couple of table lamps in the room. Those different table lamps might be different temperatures. A daylight balance bowl, which, isn't really daylight but it's kind of close to it, it may be a Tungsten bowl.

Or if you're shooting in fluorescent lighting with overhead lights, those temperatures tend to change over time. If you ever want to check this out, just look up in an office building at one time, and notice that all the different bulbs up there are a little bit different color. As they age, they change in color. And so, this mixed lighting situation is kind of complicated, but again, the camera does a great job of figuring it out. But if you do want to change the mode, let me show you how to do that on a variety of cameras. Let's start with the Canon. On Canon cameras, you're going to look for something that says WB, for White Balance, and that's what you're going to find on almost any camera.

So, WB is White Balance, simply push that button and then you'll see a variety of modes here. On this particular model, it says AWB for Auto White balance. And then, as I rotate through the modes, you can go to Sunlight, Shade, Cloud, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and then there's Flash and a variety of other modes in there. Let's take a look at a Nikon now. The White Balance button on this model is found on the back. But if I push that, I need to control something on the top of the camera. Right now, you see it says, WB for White Balance, A for Automatic. And as I switch through here, you'll see it switches through the different White Balancing modes.

On the Sony here, if I push the FN for the function button on the back, I can rotate through the different modes and find the White Balance, which is now set to Auto White Balance. Then if I push that again, I can switch through them. So here, we have Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, and so on. So, all these different modes are built into there. Let's take a look at on more camera, the Canon 60D. Unfortunately, this camera doesn't have a dedicated WB or White Balance button, but it's still easy enough to get to. Push the menu button on the back, and you'll find the White Balance controls in here.

Now, as I select this, what's nice about this camera, is it actually tells me what the different temperatures are. So, Sunlight, it says approximately 5,200 degrees, Shades about 7,000 degrees. So, you can see that that's actually a considerable difference. Then you have Cloudy at 6,000, Tungsten about 3,200, White Flourescent Light about 4,000, and so on. Now, a lot of these cameras have one more advanced function that you might want to keep in mind, and that's the Custom White Balance. You can choose the white balance by photographing something that is supposed to be white, like a white piece of paper. By just filling the frame with it, zoom in close, maybe even make it a little bit out of focus, and under the light, you're going to shoot and just take a picture of it.

And then, in the Advanced Settings of the camera, you can find that white picture and say, this is supposed to be white. The camera will then meter a precise White Balance setting based off of that image and save that as a Custom Setting and you can then dial that in. And that's really good if you're in a very complex lighting situation that is not going to change, you might find that that does a really good job of setting your White Balance perfectly. Also, if you find that the Auto White Balance just isn't working for whatever reason, that's a great way to correct for it. Finally, you can also set the White Balance completely manually by dialing in the temperature in Kelvin. Usually, that's useful if you want to do creative work. For example, in the photos that you're seeing now, these were shot outdoors in the fall, but I just felt that the colors, the yellows in the sky and on the leaves just weren't quite enough.

So, I dialed the temperature all the way up to about 8 or 9,000 degrees kelvin and shot away. And as you can see, the leaves look beautiful and warm, even though the actual scene wasn't quite that warm. So, that's White Balance. Again, not something you generally have to know but something that can be quite useful and at times, just fun to play with.

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