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No matter what you plan to do with an image in post-production, it's always a good idea to start with as true a white balance as possible. Almost all cameras nowadays give you a number of ways to do this. The first and easiest way is to set your camera in the automatic white balance mode. The camera figures out what color the light is and how to compensate for it. So why not use this all the time? It's simple and you don't have to worry about it. And I use it at times too, usually when things are happening so quickly that I don't want to be readjusting as I go. But most of the time I avoid using it, and here is why: the camera measures reflected light.
If the light is reflected off of something that changes, it will affect the color. Two photographs under the same lighting may have two different colorcasts. This is a real drag if you're shooting a series of photographs or an event like a wedding. Instead, I like to use one of the camera presets. It ensures that all of the photographs you take will have the same white balance setting. Now here's a tip: when shooting people in sunny conditions or when I'm using my flash, I like to use the cloudy preset.
It adds just a little bit of warmth to a person's skin. We've set up a very simple still live to show you the different settings, and we've hooked my camera up to the monitor, so you can actually see what my viewfinder is seeing. The lights in the room have been balanced for 5500 Kelvin, or daylight. So what you'll see is what the camera does to compensate for the colorcast. It pumps in warm or cool tones depending on the reflected light it perceives.
Right now I'm in auto white balance, and I'll switch it over to daylight, a little bit of a difference. Now shade has a blue cast to it. The camera adds warm tones. And look what happens when I change it to the cloudy setting. Again, it's adding a little bit of warm tones to bring it back to a neutral white. Tungsten light is notoriously orange, and in this case the camera is going to add blue to compensate for it.
The florescent setting is designed to pump in the right color, but look at how it adds just a little bit of magenta. And camera flash tends to be very minimally blue, so the white balance setting, again, adds just a little bit of a warm tone to it. The best thing about using one of these presets is that you know all your exposures will have the same color of light; you're starting at the same base temperature. For even more control over colorcasts, you can set your custom color balance or go into Kelvin and actually manually set the Kelvin temperature.
Now here's one of my favorite pieces of equipment, a gray card. This has saved my bacon so many times, I can't count. The way you use this is to take a shot of it in the same light that you'll be photographing in. Then just put it away. You don't need it for every situation--only when the lighting changes. And with a few quick clicks in your image processing software, you can adjust the white balance for every photograph taken under the same lighting conditions.
I'll show you how to do this later in the chapter. Okay, so now we've done what we can to ensure accurate white balance in the camera. That will make post-production a lot easier--not only easier, but way faster. Later on I'll show you some of my techniques for adjusting color in post.
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