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The Importance of White Balance

I have recently been in many debates with fellow photographers concerning white balance and it’s importance in modern day photography.  To my amazement, many of them simply let their cameras dictate the balance automatically…..even when indoors.

Don’t get me wrong, in full daylight this is an acceptable option but lets take the argument indoors.  No matter how well your camera balances for whites in a halogen or tungsten (your common household bulb of the noughties) environment you will nearly always end up with amber skin tones and this colour cast is not a pleasant sight.  Just try converting this image to grayscale to see what I am talking about….mushy greys. When I quizzed a photographer recently on the subject I was told “I set my WB (White Balance) to cloudy (6500-8000 K) all of the time and correct the colours in post.”  This was one comment I could not get my head around.  Unless you are shooting in RAW (and in this case certainly not!) it is extremely difficult to remove colour casting on skin with a jpeg.  RAW shooters have the flexibility to change their WB in post as if they were taking the shot again.  With a jpeg, it is a well-known fact that when a shot is incorrectly balanced it is impossible to recover whites and this in turn can lead to very unhappy clients.  Here’s a quick tip on WB:  When on location and shooting indoors, keep a white piece of card handy in your satchel in order to set a custom WB and if you’re using flash, keep a set of colour correction gels to ensure you get the right results.

If you like the “warm” look, knock yourself out and throw the temperature up in post but don’t ever rely on ONE WB FOR ALL – Unless you are aspiring to be Frank Spencer!  (some mothers do have them!)


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