Quick Techniques – Beginners: Get white balance right with every shot

Want to get the most out of your Fujifilm X Series cameras? Our Quick Techniques will provide you with lots of handy hints and tips to help you understand the features our range offers. This week we look at white balance. Continue reading Quick Techniques – Beginners: Get white balance right with every shot

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Written by Roger Payne

After my bathtub antics last time round – you can read that here if you missed it – I’d got the taste for creating studio quality results on the cheap. I spotted my chance when my wife bought some colourful tulips into the house and within seconds of them being put in a vase, I snaffled them to get shooting.

Aside from the flowers themselves, I used two sheets of white A3 paper, which I taped to a north-facing window. I used two sheets as a single sheet tends to show the pulp in the paper when lit from behind and then put a couple of paper clips on the bottom just to hold the sheets together and add a little weight. A couple of bulldog clips would be just as effective. With my X-E2S mounted to a tripod with the XF60mm macro lens attached, I started my shoot by selecting a custom white-balance setting; effectively to tell the camera the white point in my set-up to guarantee accurate colour reproduction. This was done by choosing White Balance in the menu, then one of the custom options before following the simple on-screen instructions. With that done, the flowers were placed in front of the paper and I got this.

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It’s hardly inspiring, is it? Composition aside, the biggest problem is the fact that the white paper has gone grey. This is because metering systems are calibrated to 18% grey. This is not a problem when shooting most standard scenes, but when you have white (or black) subjects they need a helping hand. I tried two options. First, I switched to spot metering and took a reading from the shadow area of the central yellow bloom. The result was better, but was starting to bleach the highlights, so I dialed in +1.3 stops of exposure compensation instead. Better.

The fact remained that the collection of tulips weren’t really working together, so I started trying individual flowers, placed in a toothbrush holder and held in place with a piece of scrunched up paper – no expense spared! I moved the focusing point to the flower head and tried a range of framing options.

If you’ve ever used the XF60mm Macro, you’ll know that it’s optically superb, and as the lens focused I found myself liking the abstract-like shapes in the out-of-focus bloom areas. So I switched to manual focusing, deliberately defocused and then took a range of images varying the aperture from F2.4 to F11, which altered the amount that was sharp. This one at F3.6 suited me best.

I swapped to another flower and did the same, shooting some in sharp focus and some defocused. This was repeated on the third bloom with which I also tried a few Film Simulation modes, including basic Black & White and Classic Chrome.

Shooting done, when I came to edit the images, I really liked the defocused shots and thought they could create a piece of abstract art if I created a triptych, which was easy enough to do in Photoshop. I simply created a black background, then dropped the images on in turn before shuffling them around until I got the position right.

Final-image

What do you think? I rather like the look. My wife, however, was a little less impressed. Turns out tulips don’t like being man-handled a great deal and the ones I’d photographed individually soon wilted.

Back to the shops for me!

Using white balance to take better photos

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w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerWhite Balance is a term that may seem foreign to most photographers. Especially as a setting that you could adjust that would make a drastic impact on your photos.

If you ever have taken a photo inside with fluorescent lights as your main source of lighting, you may notice a slight “bluish” look to your photos.

Why did this happen? All light sources have different colour tones based on a temperature reading scale ranging from red (warm) to blue (cold) known as Kelvin (K).

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Your choice of lighting will impact the overall look of your image and the actual colours shown in your photo. A photo mainly lit with a candle will give off a slightly deep orange colour tone. Likewise a photo mainly lit by fluorescent lights will give off a light bluish colour tone. Usually undetectable by the naked eye, we only really notice the difference when we look and compare photos side by side.

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The term ‘White balance’ (WB) is the process of removing unnatural colour tones in photos. All FUJIFILM Digital cameras have ‘White Balance’ controls to help change or correct these colour tones.

Why would a photographer need to change the camera’s white balance setting? Depending on the subject and lighting source used, a photographer can adjust the camera’s white balance setting to properly show colours as the naked eye sees them or to change the “mood” of a particular photo.


So why experiment with white balance?

You may find that the Auto White Balance setting corrects colour tones when you don’t want it to. This can happen with sunsets or landscapes, where the colour of the light is an integral part of the picture. By using one of the preset settings, you can better control the colour tone of your  photos based on the light source used. In addition to one of these “preset” settings, most FUJIFILM cameras offer the ability to pick a custom white balance setting also known as colour temperature (measured in Kelvin).

Here are some of the most commonly found and used white balance settings in Fujifilm cameras:

Auto – this is where the camera takes continuous readings of the light sources and makes adjustments automatically to the colour tone of the photo.

Daylight/Sunny/Fine – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.

Tungsten/Incandescent– this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors when traditional incandescent lighting is used. It generally cools down the colors in photos.

Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.

Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.

Colour Temperature – This option allows you to select the colour temperature using the measurement known as Kelvin, this gives you even more creative control. And without getting too technical here’s our handy hint: If your photos are coming out yellow/orange turn the temperature down (lower number value, for example 2500K) and if they are a bluish colour tone, turn the temperature up (higher number value, for example 8300K). You will soon pick up what lighting environments are around which value of Kelvin.

The other option you have is to shoot in RAW, select Auto White Balance and adjust later in post processing. This does give you more flexibility after the shoot but will add more time to your processing, plus a bit more technical know-how to get best results.

As you can see above the white balance chosen for a shot can make a huge difference to the feel of an image and in some cases what season the image was taken in.

We hope you have found this tutorial helpful and that it will get you out and about experimenting with white balance.

And as an added bonus, check out FujiGuy Billy as he shows you how to get your White Balance settings up and running in camera here.