White Balance

I have been struggling to get the correct white balance on some of my photos and others have pointed out that some of them have a colour cast. I clearly haven’t developed an eye for seeing this yet.

It was suggested that to get more accurate colours in my photographs I should use a grey card when I am shooting. Photographic grey cards are simply cards painted a dark 18% matt grey. You either ask your subject to hold it or stand it in front of your subject for a test shot. Then when the photos are in Lightroom, in Develop mode, you can use the White Balance Selector Tool on the grey card to correctly adjust the white balance. Using Sync the settings can be easily copied across to all of the other photographs taken under the same lighting conditions.

To practise this, I took a small piece of grey card and took some test shots around the college. Below are my unedited results alongside my adjusted and sync’d images. There isn’t a lot of difference in some of the images, but there is in others and if I use this method I can rest assured that my white balance will be correct.

If a grey card isn’t available, the white balance selector tool can still be used by clicking it on a grey or neutral tone within the image and checking that the RGB readings at the bottom of the selector tool are equal (or roughly equal at least).

Other colour casts can be adjusted by remembering the acronym: Right Colour Gets Me BY. This reminds us that Red and Cyan are opposites, as are Green and Magenta and Blue and Yellow. So when there is too much red in a photographic image we need to add more cyan to balance it out, similarly with the other colours.

It is worth noting that the correct white balance isn’t always the most artistically appropriate. It is valid and right to make images warmer or cooler or make one of the colours stronger depending on their subject but that is an artistic decision that can be justified by the photographer.

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