Monday, December 8, 2008

Improve the color of your photos with white balance

All light has different color temperatures. Although we can't see it, digital cameras can.

For example: most indoor lighting has a color temperature of around 3200 degrees Kelvin, and outdoor lighting has a color temperature of around 5600 degrees Kelvin. I'm not going to explain Kelvin, but you just need to understand there is a difference.

To get better color, most cameras automatically adjust to the different color temperatures, but they don't always guess the color temperature correctly.

Most point-and-shoot cameras will have basic white balance control. Some even have a custom white balance setting. Basic white balance settings will have a little icon of a cloud, a light bulb, a tree with shade etc. Use the cloud setting outside when it is cloudy, use the light bulb setting anywhere that is lit with regular incandescent bulbs... anyway you get the idea. Your camera settings will probably be close, but slightly different from mine so experiment with your white balance options and see what you can come up with. Here is what I have.

This first photo uses custom white balance, which was balanced under the hanging light in the background (probably around 3200 K or less). This accurately depicts the color of the walls etc, but the sunlight spilling in the window gives me (in the chair) a villainous pale blue hue.

indoor white balance

I'd like to think of myself more has the warm friendly superhero type so I re-balanced the custom white balance near the window and it gives my face a more accurate and warmer hue.
outdoor white balance

There problem with this photo is that I have two different light temperatures. The background light, around 3200 and the sunlight coming in the window at around 5600. My face is nice and tan but I assure you my walls are not that yellow. The simple solution is to turn off the hanging light and use only the sunlight coming in the window.

UPDATE: kelvin has been corrected above to read Kelvin. thanks Daragh


Jacobson Five said...

Do you learn all this stuff from your talented wife or what? Thanks for the tips.

Dan said...

I have learned some from her. But I've been doing videography for 7-8 years. Much of the technology is the same.

Anonymous said...

It's not "degrees kelvin"; it's just "Kelvin".