Tuesday’s TIP: Custom White Balance

“Custom White Balance”

by Kelli West

Kelli West Photography

Hello everyone! I hope right now that I can explain this to you all, and have it be understandable. You know that saying, “those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, do” …well, I’m not very good at teaching, and can tend to confuse others (mostly because I am trying to find the best way to explain it). So I hopefully there is no confusion, and if there is please feel free to email me and I will do my best to either explain it better or just confuse you more.:D

I  believe that it is the little things you learn and use that can make a huge difference in your photos, and doing a custom WB (white balance) is one of those. The more I can do to get my photos right in camera, the happier I am. It means less time in photoshop, and more time with my family (or doing other things in photoshop).   Leaving your AWB mode (auto white balance) can help. There are many “semi custom” WB modes that your camera gives you to help you out.

Here is an example below…

If you are outside shooting in the shade, there is WB mode for that…. BUT we even want to go one step further than that and create a custom WB for that exact lighting that you are in.

First off there are several different tools you can use to set your WB.  There are GRAY CARDS which are the most common, Gray cards are 18% gray and tells your camera what is neutral light at that moment. There is also an  Expo Dish which is slightly better than a gray card, but much more pricey.  An Expo Dish fits over your lens, you aim it at the light source and take the picture. It can hang around your neck, or go in a pocket (so it’s not as cumbersome as a gray card (but like I said, it’s more expensive). Either one will work, and by using one of them you get blacker blacks, and whiter whites. Your colors will be more rich and true to what your eye sees.  Have you ever taken a picture of a client in the snow, then open your picture to see that the white snow you saw looks gray and dirty? Setting a custom WB helps to fix that.

Here is an example of what I would do with my gray card.

Here is a before and after picture with setting a custom WB.

During a session with constant lighting that doesn’t change (so my studio lighting) I only have to do a custom WB once.  When I am outside on location with the light source changing constantly (sometimes I am in the shade, other times I am out in the direct sun, or it might have become overcast) I do a custom WB each time. It’s quick and takes less than 30 seconds. You will for sure, notice a difference in your pictures. For those of you who are not Canon users, go to you tube and type in “how to set custom WB for ________ (insert camera brand here)”  And you will find tutorials on how to set the WB in your camera.

I REALLY encourage you all to go out in different lighting situations and practice doing a  custom WB. You will be so happy you did, and so will your clients.

Thank You Kelli!

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Sara - March 29, 2012 - 1:20 pm

Thanks, this is great! Do I need a gray card or will something like my white reflector work?

Michelle - March 29, 2012 - 10:39 pm

Thank you for this! I just learned this yesterday t my local camera shop. Question about expo dish, gray cards, etc. the local camera company told me that I can use the gray colored microfiber cloth that they sold me to clean my lense. In your opinion would you do that? Thanks!

Ashly - March 29, 2012 - 11:00 pm

Beautiful way of explaining it. You cleared up a few questions I had when doing this. Beautiful explanation, no confusion here!

Jess - March 29, 2012 - 11:09 pm

Thanks for this post.
I have tired custom white balance because I want less time in editing but it comes out so yellow. So, now my question is does the kelvin matter at this point as well? I think mine is set on 5200 and it makes my images very warm…which I like but its too warm. Would love some insight.

Yvonne - March 29, 2012 - 11:15 pm

I will look into this!! Love the tip, thanks for sharing.

Sandra - March 30, 2012 - 12:01 am

Thanks for the tips! Just bought a gray card and can’t wait to try it out. :)

Caroline - March 30, 2012 - 12:37 am

My workflow changed COMPLETELY!when I switched to custom white balance! Buy an ExpoDisc…it is well worth the 50 bucks! And SO easy to use!

Melissa - April 3, 2012 - 9:16 pm

Very clear and very helpful! Right down to the suggestion on what to Google. It led me to a great YouTube video for my specific camera model. Within 1 minute, I had setup a one button function on my Olympus, and I can see the difference in my before and after shots. You’ve saved me lots of time in post. Thank you!

Colleen - April 5, 2012 - 3:28 am

Kelli – Have you tried the “Lally Cap”? Great price, super small and works great. I love mine. You should check it out.

Cat - August 29, 2012 - 5:43 am

Wow. Actually, the saying is: “Those who can, do. Those who can teach, do wonders.” ;)

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