Taking control of your camera step by step Part 5

Setting White Balance

Where ISO deals with the amount of light, White Balance deals with the color of light. The part of the brain that processes the information from our eyes does an excellent job of “white balancing” the light we see. We can walk from outdoors (daylight) to an office building illuminated by fluorescent lights and then into an office illuminated by tungsten bulbs and our eyes will adjust automatically. You may get a glimpse of the green colorcast from the florescent lighting or the orange colorcast from the tungsten but your brain corrects for those color casts in an instant.

Your camera makes similar adjustments when it is set to Auto White Balance, and the newer cameras do a great job. But relying on Auto anything is what we are trying to get away from. Your camera has several white balance settings to get you in the ball park. These settings will be better than Auto when there is a color cast around that can fool the camera. When light hits an object it will reflect the color of that object back into the scene creating a color cast. For instance when you are making images in a room with brightly colored walls the light that hits those walls will reflect that color back into the room. The most precise white balance adjustment you can make is creating a Custom White Balance for what ever you are photographing.

Creating a Custom White Balance is not difficult but it takes a few steps if your camera has this option. Check your owners manuel for the specific steps you need to follow for your camera. You will need a “target” that is either middle grey or white. Once you have your camera setup to create a custom white balance, you put your target in the scene being sure to fill the frame with the target. You then trip the shutter and the camera tells you if you were successful. Now your white balance is set for those lighting conditions and only those conditions. When the lighting changes you need to create a new custom white balance.

Taking control of your camera step by step Part 1

“Green Camera” Mode

When a camera comes from the manufacturer, it is most likely set to “Green Camera” mode (some manufacturers also use a red camera or other icon) if the camera has any modes other than full auto. This is so that most anyone can open the box, charge the battery and start making images without reading much about the camera except for the “Quick Start Guide”. The quick start guide is intended to do just that, get you started making images as quickly as possible. With very little real info about the camera, beyond its basic workings, this guide can be confusing for the camera’s new owner.

By “Green Camera” mode I mean the camera mode designated by the green camera icon otherwise know as full auto mode where the camera is doing everything for you automatically. Auto ISO, Auto White Balance, Auto Flash, Auto Exposure and the largest Jpeg file that the camera can produce. The owner of the new camera has to think of little other than pointing the camera in the direction of something they find interesting, pressing the shutter release, waiting for the camera to focus and then make an image.

Some photographers never get away from this auto everything mode. And that is ok, really, it is. These photographers are quite happy with creating images where they don’t have to think about any of the camera’s workings. All they are concerned with is knowing where the shutter release is and how to see the images on the back of the camera or on a computer monitor. A large number of these photographers become dissatisfied with making images this way and eventually want to learn more. Getting away from full auto takes some time and practice and most photographers use some of the other modes to help get away from “Green Camera” mode.

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