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Make it White

August 27, 2008 - Dave Hecei
Back in the days when we used to shoot film, for myself that wasn't that long ago, you had to be aware of the type of light you were shooting in. To our eyes, light is usually white. In reality, light can be many different colors. In photo terms this is referred to as color temperature.

If you ever shot slide film, you may remember that there are two varieties to choose from, daylight or tungsten. Obviously, daylight film is meant to be used outdoors in daylight, but can be used indoors with electronic flash. Tungsten film is designed to be used indoors, usually in a studio, with incandescent lighting. These studio lights are similar to standard light bulbs that have tungsten filaments inside - hence tungsten slide film. Incandescent bulbs have a very yellow/orange color to them.

If you wanted to shoot daylight film with tungsten lights, you could use a colored filter to compensate. If you wanted to shoot tungsten film outdoor, there was an appropriate filter for that too. Now that we are in the digital age, these color correcting filters are obsolete. Digital cameras now have the ability to do this conversion electronically. This is called 'white balance' and should be described in the user manual for your camera.

Most modern DSLR cameras, and many point-and-shoot cameras, have several white balance presets. These are usually: auto, daylight, overcast, shadow, indoors tungsten, indoor fluorescent, indoor heavy fluorescent, and manual. Under most average lighting situations these will do very well. For the best results in difficult lighting you should set the white balance to manual and set a white balance point. Your manual will tell you how this is done for your specific model.

If your digital pictures have a color cast to them, check your white balance to make sure it's right for the light your shooting in. Once you have the color balanced, pictures will look more natural and require much less processing later.


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