NOTE: This post was originally published on the blog “Simply Horse Crazy”, by Mary Coleman, on August 25th, 2013. She also took many of the photos included, except where credited otherwise. Huge thanks to Mary for letting us repost her series here!
At first, I wasn’t entirely sure where exactly I should start. There’s so many aspects to photography that define how your pictures turn out. Eventually, I figured I should start with the most basic concepts and build forward off them…you don’t learn half pass before leg yield! 😉
Have you ever taken a picture, on any type of camera, really (even your cell phone), and wondered why it came out looking either really blue or really orange? Or maybe you’ve never noticed, but I bet we all have taken pictures that fit this description…
The answer on how to fix this is very very simple. It’s a function on your camera called “White Balance.”
Before I tell you how to use, let me first explain how it works:
Cameras are not very good at adjusting to different lighting colors/temperatures the way our eyes see are. That is why, even though there is an Auto White Balance (AWB) option, it’s not the best to use. To make your shots appear natural , you really need to adjust the white balance manually. And it’s not hard to do! You’ll truly be surprised at the difference it makes in your pictures!
All cameras are different, so you’ll have to play around with yours a little to find the White Balance button and adjust your settings. If you have a Canon, for example, you’ll see a button on the back of your camera that says “WB” written in white above it. That is your White Balance button, which will take you to a screen with your available options.
NOTE: If your camera is on Automatic, you will be unable to to reach this screen. You must switch your dial to one of the manual options: If you have never used Manual before, I would suggest “Program” mode (it’s the “P” on the dial of both Canon and Nikon cameras). Things like shutter speed and aperture will be adjusted automatically, but you’ll be able to adjust the white balance (and ISO, too!) manually. It’s a good starter setting and it will allow you to start to get the feel for things.
How to Choose
Most of the White Balance options are pretty self-explanatory. If you’re outside and the sun is shining brightly, “daylight” is probably what your looking for. However, it your shooting in the shade, call me crazy, but I may suggest the “shade” option. 😉 For taking pictures indoors the “tungsten” and “white fluorescent” light options are often useful because they add some bluish/green tones that are lacking in indoor lighting. To be completely honest, though, you have to play around. Many times I shoot with the “shade” option even if I’m not in the shade because I like the warmer tones. A lot depends on the specific shot and personal preference.
In the diagram I made above, I look the same picture three times. The only thing I changed each time was the White Balance. My favorite of the three is the picture that is on the “daylight” setting. Note that I was in the shade…in this case I think the “shade” photo is a little too warm. Hopefully this chart helps you get an idea of what each setting adds to the picture and how changing the white balance really does make a difference.
Up next? Shutter speed.