Monthly Archives: March 2013

Baby photograph tip #2: Adjusting white balance

This week has another tip from Deidre, a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography.

In our last post, we talked about the importance of pleasing colour tones – particularly for baby images — and understanding how your camera perceives light and adjusts the images. 

White balance is a critical element in colour tone, and most cameras allow you to adjust it directly rather than leaving it on Auto White Balance (AWB).  Here are some hints on how to adjust it – depending on your camera type:  

Use the settings that your camera offers other than AWB.  Your camera documentation and many sites online will give you the low-down on different settings.  Here’s a good one.  (This is Henry’s camera store in Toronto, where I bought my first film SLR years and years ago…) 

image

In the images above, you can see a range of different white balance settings.  From left to right:  tungsten light, AWB, custom (4650), custom (5100), daylight, cloudy.  My preference is anywhere between the middle two – warm enough to seem appropriate for a baby, but not so warm that the baby’s face is going too red or yellow.  As you see, the AWB is actually quite cool, and while it might technically be correct, it isn’t as pleasing to my eye as slightly warmer tones.

Personally, I’d recommend using white balance settings over AWB most of the time.  That said, I usually set the white balance manually:

Set the colour temperature exactly by either using the Custom white balance feature that some cameras have, or even setting the exact Kelvin temperature you want.  Not all cameras offer this, but if yours does, try exploring it!  Many photographers would use grey and white cards which they would hold up and photograph in the photographic setting in order to determine the exact colour balance settings to render neutral grey or white.  But you can also play around with the settings and see what produces a pleasing colour balance for you.  This is a lot more work, which might not make sense for home family photography, but if you’re really keen to learn more, try here.

Shoot in RAW and adjust in Photoshop (irrespective of whether you’ve used AWB or another setting).  I know it’s easier to shoot jpeg images, especially when you have busy lives and don’t want to spend time fixing the images after you’ve taken them – you just want to upload and share them with family and friends around the world.  Still, if at all possible, I’d recommend using RAW.

If you shoot in jpeg or other compressed file formats, you don’t necessarily retain all the information in the image that you would if you shot in RAW.  This information can be helpful if you want to adjust the colour tones after the fact. 

I always shoot in RAW – if I got everything right in my camera settings, great, but if I didn’t, I know I can make changes.

What does this all mean?

There’s nothing wrong with just picking up your camera, pointing and shooting, of course, and for some family moments, that’s the best thing to do.  There’s no sense in missing the moment because you were adjusting the camera settings.  But the more you learn about your camera, the faster you’ll get at intuitively assessing the moment and adjusting the settings that really matter.  I’d argue that understanding and adjusting for white balance is one of them.

Next up: How to take a great family photograph

About the author:

Deidre is a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography.  With a background in fashion modelling, business strategy, and photography, she brings a unique perspective to both portraiture and documentary work.  Her portrait studio in Central London sees both local and international clients who seek out her natural and timeless photographs.  Her travel images have appeared in magazines, books, galleries and museums around the world.  She is a full member of the Association of Photographers and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  

Her websites:

www.studiodeidre.com

www.deidresorensen.com

Baby photograph tip #1: Colour tones and why White Balance matters

This week’s tip is from Deidre, a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography.

I get asked about colour tone in images a lot – why do images taken at home sometimes have less than pleasing colour tones or different tones from image to image?  The answer is all about colour temperature and a feature called white balance.

What is it and why does it matter?

All sources of light emit different light, when you examine its physical properties.  Some have much shorter wavelengths and some longer.  Our eyes and brain can easily adapt to this, so we can walk from a room lit by Tungsten lights to one lit by fluorescent and not find the shift in light tone around us to be particularly noticeable … if we think about it, we can see it, but most of us don’t.  But take photographs in the two rooms and suddenly it’s more obvious.  Our cameras have eyes, but they don’t have our brains, and therefore tend to see exactly what is there. 

Here is a series of images, all with different colour tones.  The difference is now obvious. 

 image

But how do you control how your camera “sees” light?

White balance is all about telling your camera what the light is like and what colour temperature is a neutral white in that exact moment.  If you don’t tell it correctly, the photograph could come out way too blue or way too warm and yellow, and you’ll see that what seemed white to you suddenly looks yellow in the image, or blue. 

That’s why it’s called white balance.  And it fundamentally changes the image and how you perceive it – it really is just as important as thinking about composition or aperture. 

And it is important, even if you’re doing family snapshots at home – you don’t want your baby looking a bit jaundice, nor do you want the setting to look overly cold and sterile (baby photos need to err on the side of warmth most of the time, as we like to think that babies are in warm fuzzy environments!). 

But why doesn’t your camera do this for you?

Most cameras today allow for you to select the white balance.  Leaving it on auto white balance (AWB) isn’t necessarily optimal. On AWB, your camera decides for you what your final image should look like, based on the colours it perceives.  It gets it right a lot of the time, but not always.  Here are a few reasons I notice:

Sometimes, it picks up a lot of warm colour because what you’re photographing is full of warm red and yellow tones, and it artificially cools it.

Sometimes it also decides that you should cool a scene that is, say, candle-lit, when you want to err on the side of it being warm, as you want to convey the feeling of the candle-lit moment. 

And sometimes it assesses the light differently for two pictures taken in the same setting, simply because you moved slightly or changed the angle of the photograph.

So, if you want to be bold and try something out, take your camera off AWB and try setting it based on the scene you are in.  Then you can dictate to your camera what colour settings you want, and override its decision-making ability! 

Next up: How to adjust white balance if you take it off auto

About the author:

Deidre is a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography.  With a background in fashion modelling, business strategy, and photography, she brings a unique perspective to both portraiture and documentary work.  Her portrait studio in Central London sees both local and international clients who seek out her natural and timeless photographs.  Her travel images have appeared in magazines, books, galleries and museums around the world.  She is a full member of the Association of Photographers and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  

Her websites:

www.studiodeidre.com

www.deidresorensen.com