Color Balance inaccuracies are not always "errors."

On Sunday I wrote an article about shooting a conference. I went on and on about the need to do custom white balances---especially if you are hellbent on shooting everything as a JPEG file. I forgot to mention (although most of you already know it...) that sometimes it's okay to use the "wrong" color balance setting.

I had just walked out of the very tungsten-y main ballroom and came across a rack of glassware that the hotel was bringing out to set up for a reception/happy hour. I love shooting repeating glass patterns so I grabbed the camera with the 12-35mm and banged off a few shots, neglecting to re-apply color sanity. Since all my cameras are "pre-chimp" capable I saw the issue right away and corrected back to "interior with predominant daylight" setting.

But when I got back to Austin and started editing and polishing the 3600+ images I'd taken I came across the "mistakes in glassware" and found that I loved the effect of the cold blue. Similarly, a "correct" white balance can also kill the wonderful colors of a sunset. When I shoot sunsets I've learned to set the camera's white balance to the little "sun" icon which puts the camera at 5500K with no hue shift. In this way I get all the rich, warm colors of the sunset because the prevailing color is much warmer and more color nuanced than direct sun would be.

Gotta love it when being wrong is more beautiful that being right...

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Ash said...

This is a great point you are making - White Balance is an artistic decision. Something I struggled to learn early on and still struggle to incorporate. Too many decisions. Art is hard.

Frank Grygier said...

Using gels on flash with custom white balance can be a creative way to use this setting creatively.