Join Anthony Q. Artis for an in-depth discussion in this video White balancing a shot, part of Video Foundations: Cameras and Shooting.
So in the previous movie I explained the concept of color temperature and why it's important to white balance. If you don't understand exactly what color temperature is, you should watch that movie first, because the concept of color temperature and the function of white balance go hand in hand. Now in this movie I am going to discuss exactly how and when to white balance your camera. Most cameras have built-in preset functions for daylight and indoor white balance and fairly reliable auto white balance functions.
These functions are sometimes indicated by a little light bulb symbol for indoor light at 3200K or a little sun symbol for daylight at 5600K. In the case of auto white balance, you're likely to see ATW or Auto WB somewhere on the screen. You can use the factory presets or auto white balance if it's more practical, but if you want the best results, then you need to learn the white balance the way the pros do, and that's full manual baby. So the first real question is when should you white balance? Essentially, you want to always white balance anytime the lighting condition changes, such as you move from indoors to outdoors or vice-versa.
The sun is now lower in the sky than when you first started shooting or you turned on some overhead fluorescent lights that went on before. If you even think the lighting conditions may have changed, you should re-white balance your camera just to be sure. There is no such thing as over white balancing. The worst you can possibly do is correct the colors in your image. So when in doubt, do it again, it only takes a few seconds. First, we have to put the camera in manual white balance mode.
Somewhere on the left side of many Prosumer cameras, you'll find a white balance select switch. This is the switch you use to choose between different white balance modes in the camera. On many cameras it's generically labeled as A, B, and Preset, which will allow you to select between Manual, Auto White Balance, and Preset White Balance. Consult your camera manual to see exactly which setting is for which mode. On most cameras, you can go into the menu and assign whether the A and B switches are Manual or Auto White Balance.
On this camera, I set A to Auto White Balance and B to Manual, so I am covered for all shooting situations. So I am going to put this into the B position. Now I'm ready to manually white balance my camera. Step 1: first, you want to hold a white card in front of your subject. A large sheet of foam core board will work, but a standard bright white piece of paper like the back of a script would do the job just fine, even a crisp clean white T-shirt will also do the job in a pinch. However, you want to avoid using off-white and cream colored paper to white balance.
Step 2: make sure that your white card is in the exact same light as your subject. Step 3: adjust your framing so that the shot is filled with just the white card. Step 4: adjust your exposure so that it is not over or underexposed but just right. If your exposure is off, your white balance will likely be off as well. Step 5: make sure your camera is in Manual White Balance mode as we discussed earlier.
Step 6: push the White Balance button, which is typically found near the front of the camera on most Prosumer camera models, and voila! You have just white balanced your camera. Now, there's one important note to keep in mind when using colored gels and professional lighting gear, you want to remember to always white balance before adding any colored gels to your light, or your white balance will not be correct. We'll be talking about colored gels when we get into the lighting chapter. So to review, you want to manually white balance your camera any time the lighting condition changes.
Just as with focusing, we want to white balance manually for maximum control over our image whenever possible. However, as you'll discover with experience, this ain't always possible. Sometimes you will be in a situation where the lighting conditions are changing so frequently or unpredictably that it's simply not practical to stop and manually white balance your camera each time. For example, if you were shooting while going from indoors to outdoors or vice-versa, or if you are following someone on a walking toward their business, you may be traveling through rooms lit by tungsten, fluorescent and daylight at any given moment.
For these types of fluid situations, I recommend using Auto White Balance so that your camera adjusts to each situation as it arises, and you can just focus on getting the shot and keeping it moving. The bottom line is whether you white balance manually or automatically, it's important that you always make sure your camera is showing the scene as it looks to your naked eyes or in the way you want it to look artistically.
- Exploring the different types of video cameras
- Understanding how to focus
- Shooting with shallow depth of field
- Understanding exposure
- Using ND filters to correct overexposure
- Using gain to brighten an underexposed shot
- Choosing the right shutter speed
- White-balancing a shot
- Working with a tripod
- Shooting handheld
- Using a boom microphone
- Setting up a 4-point lighting scene
- Using corrective gels