White balance example

One of the first things you learn when you start doing digital photography is what white balance is. Tungsten light has a very different color from flourescent light, which is again very different from sunlight, which in itself varies according to the position of the sun. But an example today struck home just how much a fairly small difference in white balance can do.

When I first saw this scarf done, I commented on how it almost looked like camouflage colours. After the buttons were added, I do a simple shoot of it in (purple) living room, working with sunlight but shooting with flash as I didn’t want a multi-second exposure. The light was great and I really liked the way the shape was brought out, too, so I uploaded it as my POTD for today:

Only when I came back to it shortly after did it occur to me that it looked a lot more purple than I remembered it. Back to Lightroom, and sure enough, I hadn’t specified the white balance. It was set to 5750/+41 by the camera (probably due to all the green in the yarn) rather than the 5500/+0 that is the “flash” setting. Simply adjusting to the “flash” setting cured all the camera-automatics-imposed ills and gave the picture above. Here’s what the difference looks like in Lightroom:

Here’s the final version, where the camouflage color way can clearly be seen:

Lesson: Just because the light is controlled doesn’t mean the camera will get it right. Not even when the camera knows there’s a flash on. Never trust camera automatic white balance. Ever. For anything where money is involved, definitely bring the grey card.


About larsrc

Using this blog merely to transfer over to Blogger
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