Hi, welcome back to My Photo Tutor with me, Rob Baron.
Today I am going to be looking at a subject that some people are a little bit confused about and it is called white balance. Now we have all heard the same—he is as white as the driven snow but just how white is the snow? Oh sure, snow we hold in the hand and it looks like, does it not? But if we just look at a few pictures, we can see that snow does not always look white at all, white is not always white. What do I mean by that? Well when the human eye sees white, if we go outside, we look at something white and we recognize it is white because the human brain can interpret it as white even though it might have a color shade to it, it might be slightly a blue tinge, it might have a slight red or a slight yellow. Whatever it is, we still know that it is white.
The problem is your camera does not do that. They are very clever things, our cameras but their brain is not quite good enough to know exactly which bit is white. You have a setting on the camera called auto white balance and it will usually just say AWB. The problem is the AWB is fine for—well it depends on what kind of photography you do but quite a large percentage of the time but it will sometimes let you down and it is worth getting used to the fact that white balance is something that we have control over. Now your camera will have various different options, it will have things like tungsten white balance that is for a photo taken indoors under artificial tungsten lighting. Now if you were to go outside and take a photo with the camera set to tungsten lighting, you find it will come out all blue. The problem is you see that indoors, because tungsten lighting is very yellow, what is happening is it is making it more blue to balance that yellow. But as soon as you go outside into natural daylight, it does not need to do that but you are telling it to change it because it is under tungsten and it will come out blue.
Okay, so let us take a look at this not very interesting object, it is actually a wireless receiver for my Wii but it is white and so it will suit our purposes. Now look at this photo and you can see that this white Wii receiver is actually looking very sort of yellow and that is because it is picking up the tungsten lighting. I could have gone to the tungsten setting on the camera but I decided to use a thing called custom white balance and on our digital SLR, this is a function that is available to you which basically means what you do is you tell the camera what white is tight now and then when you take a photo, it will know to interpret white as white. Okay, let us explain that a little bit more, shall we?
Here is something white, it is a sheet of paper. Now this white sheet of paper might not look very white but if you look at that right now, it might not be looking pure white, if I hold it up against a window here, it looks quite different, does it not? The color is there, it does not look white at all, but that is because I have not affected any white balance. On my camera, I am using a Canon 40D here, we have a facility that lets you tell it, the custom function of white balance. So I turn it on and you can see the screen here and you are now looking at a close up, can you see it says custom WB. WB of course is white balance. Now, by selecting that, you will see at the top left hand corner a thing that says set. Now we do not actually want to do that yet, we need to take a step back from there so let us just come back a little, just go back to normal. And what we are going to do is we are going to take a photo of this piece of paper. Now you will see that I have already done that for you.
I have taken a picture of a piece of paper under tungsten lighting and it looks quite browny yellow, does it not? It does not look white at all. But what I have done is I then said to the camera okay, custom white balance and by pressing the menu, choosing custom white balance, when we see that, I come in the top left hand corner that says set. What we can do is we can go to the pictures until we find the one of the white paper that is here, okay and then we press set and then you will get a screen that says use white balance data from this image for custom white balance and you of course will just say okay. And what it is doing is it is saying that that data that it has used is now going to be, to this camera, white. And now, if I take a photo of a piece of paper, the same piece of paper, it looks very different, it looks much whiter than it did before.
If we take something, which has got some white on it, here is one of my favorite little sculptures, it is the prodigal son actually. I have taken a picture of this part for you, first under normal tungsten lighting and then using the custom function that I had set using the photo of this white paper and you can see that especially this area of the picture which has kind of like a white headdress on or at least partially white, you will see that in the adjusted picture taken with the custom white balance set, it is much, much closer to how it should be and how it should look. The first one really does look dreadful, does it not? It is entirely off color. And so, custom white balance is about saying to the camera, okay under the lighting that we are using right now, this is what white looks like. And then when it sees in the picture a shade that matches that, it says okay that is white and that is my starting point, we are going to go from there for all of my other shades from white all the way down to black.
So, white balance is not something to be afraid of, it is simply helping the camera to recognize what white really is. Because if it can get white right, then it can get the other colors shades right as well, if it does not then you will get color casts, you know what sort of color across the image and the colors in your image won’t look quite right. Now you do not have to set that custom white balance every time you take a photograph, a lot of the times, as I have said before, your auto white balance or your AWB setting will be perfectly adequate. If you go outside, you can use the daylight setting and you will see that you have got daylight settings there of either sunny or cloudy or if you are taking a photo under flash, put it on the flash setting and it will give you the right colors under flash lighting. But when it is not quite getting it right, that is the time to go for the custom white balance function.
Setting it in the way we have, taking a photo of something white and then setting that as the data for the camera to use, you will find your colors are colored just as you wanted them and of course your white will be white, as white as the driven snow.
My name is Rob Baron, look forward to speaking to you again on My Photo Tutor.