Exercise 10: Colour cast and white balance

Task: Choose a scene or object to photograph and shoot 4 versions, using each of the white balance options (sunlight, cloudy, open shade on a sunny day, and auto). Compare the results of each scene.

Part 1

1. Find the following outdoor lighting situations, each of which has a different colour temperature.

  • sunlight
  • cloudy
  • open shade on a sunny day
  • auto

2. For each, choose a scene, object or person to photograph.

3. Shoot 4 versions using each one of the white balance options.

4. In Photoshop compare the results for each scene.

a) Cloudy

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 15.33.09Both the auto and sunlight WB settings have produced a slightly blue/grey colour-cast. This is because the light is much bluer on a cloudy day or in the shade. Therefore both the cloudy and shade WB settings have warmed up the image, making the clouds look greyer and the brickwork red/orange.

b) Shaded

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 15.35.12Again, because shade creates a blue colour temperature, the sunlight WB has created a blue tinge to the shaded area. Meanwhile, the cloudy, auto and shade WB settings have compensated for the blue colour temperature by warming the image, increasing the saturation of the yellow wall lit by the sun. Interestingly the daylight setting has produced a much more pleasing blue sky, whereas it is greyed on the other three settings. This has made me aware that the photographer shouldn’t just rely on auto WB or choose the setting he/she thinks best matches the weather conditions. Sometimes there can be more than one environmental feature affecting the white balance. For example it can be sunny with some cloud. Which leads to the question, How much cloud does there need to be for you to need to use the cloud WB setting?

c) Sunlight

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 15.37.24Both the sunlight and auto WB settings have produced a ‘truer’ blue sky of the scene. The orange temperature of the shade and cloudy WB settings have combined with the blue sky to produce a grey tinge. The main difference between auto and sunlight is that the sunlight WB has maintained a whiter church building, where as the auto and other two WB settings have given it a yellow hue. ​

Part 2

1. Find and shoot a mixed-lighting source scene – i.e. at dusk with incandescent lights on. With light leveles approximately the same.

2. Shoot 3 versions with white balance settings for:

  • sunlight
  • tungsten / incandescent
  • auto

3. Compare the results. Choose your favourite and explain why.

4. Using raw, experiment with the white balance slider to find a compromised version that you like.

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 15.39.06

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