In the world of photography and videography, there are many factors to consider when attempting to attain the highest quality image(s) possible. While the average consumer tends to be fairly knowledgeable of the importance of zooming, focus, and shot composition, they are usually not aware of the cruciality of white balance and color balance. The purpose of white balance and color balance is to adjust and render colors to show them as true-to-life (as the naked eye sees them) as possible OR to purposely change them to obtain a specific stylish look or effect. This edition of TECH YOURSELF will explore some of the various ways that each of these tasks is achieved.
MANUAL WHITE BALANCE
Cameras film, display, adjust, and output colors based on what they know white to be. When it comes to manual white balancing, the camera has to be 'told' what white is a reference point in order to 'decide' what all of the other colors are. In order to do this, your digital camera must first be in manual mode. While most digital cameras have similar features and options, the controls and menus vary based on make and model. While you are using the manual white balance feature, you can use a white (or grey) card specifically designed for this function or even something as simple as a piece of white printer paper. After you have created the proper lighting environment according to your purpose, hold up the card or piece of paper where your intended subject is going to be. Next, zoom all the way in (on each camera you're going to use if there is more than one) until the white (or grey) fills up the entire frame. Then press the white balance button until the shot becomes all white. On some cameras, this will involve holding down a physical button on the exterior of the camera while on others, it will be a touch screen button that will either automatically adjust or require being pressed for several seconds. For consistency and accuracy, you will need to go through this process every time there is any sort of change in lighting.
For a more stylish look and feel, potentially for the purposes of an experimental film or a music video, you could also use the steps above but with a different color instead of white or grey and watch it radically transform all of the other colors in the shot(s). However, if you record the video in this manner, you are pretty much stuck with that specific look unless you are skilled in color correction. Also, there are near endless filter options in modern digital editing software, so unless you are positive you want a certain look or color, it is probably better to shoot as clean and true-to-life as possible and play around with the filters in post-production.
AUTOMATIC WHITE BALANCE
Modern digital cameras include a number of automatic white balance options for various lighting situations. On a simple level, the look and feel of lighting can be described as 'cold' or 'warm.' The word "cold" is used to describe pictures and videos in which the light comes off with a more blue or grey tint which is reminiscent of the lighting outside in low-temperature and/or grey sky weather lighting. "Warm" is used to describe lighting that has a more yellow or orange tint and is evocative of sunlight and bright daytime weather. Here is a quick-guide of some of the options many digital cameras have and the look each one may present:
- AUTO - This is the setting most people use where the camera automatically adjusts to each shot-by-shot lighting situation and presents as "neutral" light.
- TUNGSTEN – This setting is best for indoor lighting, specifically incandescent lighting such as a classic light bulb. It is often symbolized using a little light bulb icon and it generally "cools" down the colors in the photos.
- FLUORESCENT – This setting is also great for "cold" indoor fluorescent lighting and will "warm" up your shots.
- DAYLIGHT/SUNNY – While not all cameras have this option, this will produce a similar (but slightly warmer) look to that of auto white balance settings.
- CLOUDY – This setting will create a look that is slightly warmer than a "daylight" setting.
- FLASH – The flash of a camera tends to be on the colder side, so using flash white balance will warm up a shot that is taken using the flash.
- SHADE – Since the lighting in a shaded area tends to be on the cooler side versus shooting in direct sunlight, this mode will also warm the shot up.