Whew, that title is a mouthful isn’t it? But when I write a practical post like this I think it’s best to be straightforward with my post title so it’s easy to find again. I’ve already talked about changing the White Balance settings in your camera, and today I’m going to teach you a trick you can use for getting a more customized white balance for each unique lighting situation.
You’re going to need a gray card. I bought this set of three which I like because of the lanyard, but I really only use the gray card so it was a bit of a waste for me.
This is a SOOC shot (SOOC means straight-out-of-camera if you are new to the photography posts) from the wedding I shot last weekend. Aren’t the colors beautiful? It’s nice to know that I won’t have to do any extra color correction in post-processing.
How does this gray card thing work?
Well, I think you’ll know what I’m going to tell you is the first step. READ YOUR MANUAL. Get out that manual and figure out if you can set a custom white balance on your specific camera model.
Take a picture, and check out the preview on the LCD screen. I was already in a tough lighting situation. The light was low, and very warm, coming from one lamp to the left of the couch. Here’s the SOOC shot on Auto White Balance.
I grabbed my gray card, set the focus to manual, turned my focus ring until the card was in focus and took a picture of the card. This is the part where people will think you’re crazy, but once they see the resulting photos they won’t think you’re crazy anymore.
Go to your camera menu and select the picture of your gray card as your custom white balance setting. This step might seem confusing but it’s really simple once you figure it out.
And don’t be like me and forget to change your white balance setting from auto white balance (or whatever it was set at) to custom white balance. I constantly take the picture of the card and go through the work of setting the custom white balance and then forget to change my white balance setting from AWB, which completely defeats the purpose.
The resulting SOOC photo is a little bit too blue, but I still think it’s better.
The more light to be had, the better your results with the gray card will be.
Here’s the SOOC shot with AWB.
Here’s the SOOC shot with custom white balance set with the gray card. Although the bride might like the previous photo because she looks really tan :), I like the color in the custom white balance photo much better.
Maybe there is a trick I haven’t learned yet, but there is one time when I can’t get the gray card to work correctly, and that’s when I’m working with two different light sources. In this photo I have sunlight streaming in near her feet and lamplight next to her head.
Here is the SOOC AWB shot. A little bit warm for my taste.
I decided to take a picture of my gray card to see if that helped.
Oh no! Entirely too cool for anyones taste. In this situation, AWB and some post-processing color correction will have to be the answer.
Yes you can shoot RAW and do all of your color corrections during post-processing, but I like using the gray card because it often saves me an extra step when I’m editing my photos later on. Whenever I do still life shots for this blog I use the card to get true colors without the need for editing later on.