White balance – This is a newer photography term, brought on by digital photography, but the concept is as old as the day is long. If you’ve ever seen a photo where a person looked sickly, cold, or so red they looked drunk, the white balance of that photo was incorrect. White balance keeps photos looking natural. Many cameras have the ability to set your white balance manually or automatically. It’s affected by the location of your photo (indoors/outdoors), the time of day, type of day (sunny/cloudy), and whether or not you use your flash. It’s called “white balance” because when the whites in real life are rendered as white in the photo, the photo is considered to be neutrally balanced and correct.
Here’s an example of a photo with corrected white balance, and a photo without corrected white balance. See the difference?
They’re both great photos (thanks, Mom!), but the one on the left has not been color corrected and the one on the right has been shifted just a bit to give us some skin color and knock out some of the gray of our cloudy day. White balance is so important; it can turn a good picture into a great picture, but if the white balance is off, it can ruin your shot. In the example below, the white balance is so off on the photo on the left that it looks like the bride’s father has purple hair, and the bride is pink. It’s a great shot but the color ruins it. I adjusted the white balance just a bit, so the color was “true” to real life, and the great shot became perfect.
If you have a DSLR camera, you have the ability to change white balance in the camera itself, but if you’re changing locations a lot (like Saturday, where I was walking back and forth between the barn and the field, which require different white balance settings) or you’re just not sure about it, you can put the camera on auto white balance, and then change individual photo color settings in post-processing, which is the way I like to do it anyway.
You can also use flash, especially if you have a flash that you can adjust to bounce off of the ceiling, or filter so that it’s not overpowering, and the flash will automatically adjust your white balance for you as well.
These two photos were taken in the same location (the dance floor) as the above photo of the bride with her father, but these two were shot with the flash and required no color correction at all. I bounced the flash off of the ceiling of the wrap-around porch, so the light was diffused and didn’t overpower the shot.