Why and When To Set A Custom White Balance

piano reflection portrait
Piano Reflection Portrait

Why set a custom white balance? The answer is simple. To get the best, most accurate colors your camera is capable of producing. It is especially important when photographing people if you want beautiful, accurate skin tones. In this article I give you some shooting tips, answer common questions, and I cover the situations when it is preferable not do a custom white balance.

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How To Set A Custom White Balance on Your Digital Camera

 

Before and after setting a custom white balance.

Before and after setting a custom white balance.

To get the most accurate colors your camera is capable of creating you need to set a custom white balance. Every camera does this a little differently, but it involves taking a picture of an 18% gray card (or something pure white) and using that photo as a standard to create a custom white balance setting. I will show you the process with a Canon camera, but other brands should be somewhat similar. Check your camera’s manual for specific instructions.

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Favorite Photo, February 23

Sami Lynn with rose petals, Columbus Ohio. February 23, 2007.
Sami Lynn with Rose Petals, Columbus Ohio. February 23, 2007.

Sami Lynn and I were creating portraits for her model portfolio. With her on the floor, I arranged her hair to get as many curls as possible at the ends of the strands of hair. The rose petals were my idea. I knew the Valentine’s Day roses in a vase were about done so I plucked all the petals and dropped them on the floor and on Sami Lynn.

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A Snowy Owl Photo Expedition

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

What is a Snowy Owl expedition really like? This article is your chance to find out. Join me for a two day photo safari! I give you tips and photo suggestions along the way, and you get to see how I prepare, plan, and adapt on a photo trip. I tell you what went right and what went wrong so this is also about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

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How to Find and Photograph Snowy Owls

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2016

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2016

Winter is your opportunity to photograph Snowy Owls. When it is cold enough and there is enough snow cover, snowy owls move down into the northern U.S. The colder it is the farther south they move. If conditions are right, don’t delay. If the winter turns warmer the snowy owls will head back north.

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“How To” Series: Snowy Owl Photography

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl looking for prey.

If there are cold enough temperatures and plenty of snow cover on the ground, the northern United States has a winter invasion of Snowy Owls. These are magnificent creatures and well worth your photographic time and attention. This series is filled with tips on how to find and photograph snowy owls.

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How to See and Photograph The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Tonight

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018.

Tonight (January 3-4) is the night of the Quandrantid Meteor Shower. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the first meteor shower of 2019. Predictions are always just estimates, but this shower is predicted to produce about 25 meteors per hour. Best of all, this will be a dark sky night without interference from the moon.

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Mixing Flash and Ambient Light for a Christmas Portrait

Kristina at Christmas

Kristina at Christmas

On Christmas eve I found myself doing Christmas portraits for Kristina’s portfolio. She is a friend of mine who is a model and actress in L.A.. There isn’t a lot of space in my studio when the Christmas tree is up so I had to improvise a bit with the lighting and I needed to get the right mix of flash and ambient light for the look I wanted.

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How to Photograph Christmas Lights with Your DSLR, ILC, or Smartphone

Christmas Lights, Easton, Columbus, OH

Christmas Lights, Easton Shopping Center, Columbus, OH

‘Tis the season and there are a lot of Christmas lights out there to photograph. It is fun and easy, and with a few tricks up your sleeve there are creative things you can do. Many of these techniques can be used on other lights throughout the year, so this is a good time to practice your skills for photographing lights.

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Handheld Panos: Sometimes You Get Lucky

Kroger Panorama. Graceland Shopping Center, Columbus Ohio. November 12, 2013. Click for a larger version.

I’ve done a lot of commercial panoramas for clients as diverse as KOA Campgrounds and Crown Plaza Hotels. When I am on a commercial assignment I follow all the right steps and use all the right equipment. For the Kroger pano above I did everything right.

But there are times when you are doing your own thing and decide at the last minute you want to try a pano. You might get lucky trying to do a handheld panorama. I will tell you how to increase your odds of getting a good handheld pano.

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Favorite Photo, December 4

Graham Parsons and the Go Rounds. The Strutt. Kalamazoo Michigan. Dec 4, 2009.

I was in Kalamazoo for a fashion show followed by a series of local bands in concert. This photo of Graham Parson and the Go Rounds ended up being my favorite photo of the evening, and one of only two favorite photos for this date in my “favorite photos” folder.

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Buying a Headlamp for Night Photography: The Essential Feature

Photographers with red headlamps. Field Trip, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A red headlamp is an essential tool for night photography. Before you rush out and buy one, make sure it has the most essential feature (other than the red LED). Some inexpensive headlamps have this feature and some very expensive ones don’t, so cost is not the issue.

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Your Camera Does NOT Capture Reality! (and what to do about it)

O'Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado

O’Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado.

You have heard it said a lot, and maybe said it yourself: “This picture doesn’t do the scene  justice.” That is often true and for several reasons. One is that digital cameras do not capture reality. No matter how fancy or expensive, digital cameras simply do not capture what your eyes see. That is also true with film cameras. All color photographic films have different color characteristics. Some have better reds, others have better greens or blues. Some are more saturated and others less saturated. But none of them are totally color realistic. So why don’t digital cameras give you realistic images and what can you do about it?

Originally posted December 16, 2015. Revised, expanded, and re-posted May 4, 2018. Updated October 31, 2018.

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You Can Create High Quality Digital Images of Analog Prints, Even if You are Traveling

Doris. The digitized copy of an original print.

You can create high quality, high resolution digital images of analog prints, and you can do it on the road without having a flatbed scanner and computer with you. You probably have everything you need with the possible exception of a couple of small, inexpensive accessories (less than $10 each). This article will show you what to do, step by step.

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Snowy Owl Photography: Solving A Photo Problem (And the Right Way to Exit Your Vehicle)

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

When I am traveling with my highly trained and high paid photographic assistant it is his job to remove trash barrels when they are in the way, cut down trees that spoil my view, run out into the meadow and scare off the cow elk that are in front of the bull elk I want to photograph, rip boards off of old barns that don’t look quite distressed enough, pull on the whiskers of a sleeping cougar to wake it up, and cut down utility lines that are obstructing a clear view of my subject. But he wasn’t with me on this trip due to sitting in jail over a minor incident in Yosemite. So I had a challenge on my hands that I had to solve myself.

I am kidding, of course. The prior paragraph was inspired by really crazy things a few photographers do but shouldn’t be doing.

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