If the color isn’t right
My guess is that most of us shoot almost everything with White Balance set to Auto (AWB). It is remarkable how well that usually works. But from time to time you’re going to get some pictures where the color is just, well, off.
Chances are that Auto White Balance just wasn’t up to the task. White Balance is a funny name for that setting. It should be called “Matching the light to the colors”. Your camera allows you to set White Balance to one of these settings:
Before digital cameras you loaded up with one of the three types of film, daylight, tungsten or fluorescent. If you shot tungsten outdoors the results were pretty awful. Amateurs usually just used daylight film – fluorescent lights were always a problem.
Now, with digital cameras we have the opportunity to get the color “right” on a whole series of shots – indoors, outdoors, flash, room lights and fluorescent lights. And most of the time Auto White Balance gives you pretty good results. But not always.
Yesterday was my granddaughter Scarlett’s birthday. We had lunch and headed for Build-A-Bear. I have been there before and come back with a lot of overly yellow pictures. The place has bright fluorescent lights and yellow walls. I was shooting with external flash but I decided to set White Balance to Fluorescent. On the LCD screen it looked like that did the trick. When I got the pictures onto the computer I still felt that the color was not right. Better than the last time but still not quite right (or I’m too fussy). So I loaded up the RAW files and chose a Custom White Balance. This allowed me to click on Scarlett’s white shirt to have all the colors adjusted around that. I’ve shown you the results below.
This isn’t the only way to correct color and of course won’t work if you weren’t shooting RAW + JPEG as I recommended in an earlier post. Should you shoot RAW? All of the image programs you’re using have an option to Auto Color Correct. I took the Auto White Balance version of this picture and let Photoshop Elements, Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery have a go at it. The results are below. You be the judge.
In conclusion I’m not trying to tell you that you have to set White Balance before each shooting session. Auto White Balance (AWB) is amazingly good most of the time. But I encourage you to experiment with the other settings. I’ve found that outdoor shots sometimes just look better with White Balance set to Cloudy or Shade, for example.