Ken's  column covers aspects of photography indoors as well as in the garden. 

White Balance
   After mulling over what topic to cover in this my first photo tips article, I have chosen to tackle an issue that frustrates many digital camera owners who may not know that the solution is right in their hands.  White Balance (WB) is an aspect of photography that is crucial to get the colors of your photos as accurate as possible.
   Have you ever noticed that even though your eye saw a normal scene in front of you that the image you shot came out with an orange, blue, yellow or green cast to it?  It is not time for a new camera but just time to dig out the owner’s manual.  The reason that this happens is that different light sources have different color temperatures to them.  A fluorescent light source tends to leave your photos with a bluish tint whereas incandescent lights tend to leave you with a yellow/orange cast.
   Our eyes automatically adjust for light temperature differences but our digital cameras are not as smart and need a little help from us to identify the light source we are shooting in.  Fortunately most digital cameras have WB preset modes as well as an automatic (AWB) setting to help in that process.  If we can tell the camera which object in the photo is supposed to come out white, it can calculate and correct the color temperature of that white item and shift all the colors in the picture accordingly.

Opteka Grey Card Set -about $15

ExpoDisc -about $100

   The icons above are representative of a variety of white balance settings  that are found on most digital cameras.  The first three icons represent Kelvin, Custom and Auto white balances.  The remaining preset WB icons (tungston, fluorescent, daylight, flash and cloudy) are listed in order of increasing color temperatures.
   For most shots taken outdoors on sunny and cloudy days, the AWB usually works very well.  If you are not happy with the color cast that you see in your preview window after taking the shot, try using one of the presets that best represents the light you are in.  Indoor shots tend to be a bit trickier unless you are in a constant light source.  AWB, tungston or fluorescent settings should be used in these situations.  The problem comes in when you are taking a picture where you have multiple sources of different types of light entering into your shot.  You will need to set your camera to AWB or learn how to use the Custom WB setting when you run into this situation.  AWB will calculate an average color temperature for the entire scene and then use this for the WB.  If this still is not giving you what you want, you will need to manually set the WB by using a grey card, shoot in RAW where you can make corrections in post processing,  or by using aftermarket products such as an Expodisc or similar product.
   I will leave you with an example of the AWB not being able to figure out the proper color temperature for a picture.  The two pictures below were taken by the same camera  at the Convention during the judging of the watercolor botanical art contest.  The first picture was shot using the AWB setting and second was shot using the Custom WB setting after using an Expodisc.
   You can see that the second picture is much truer in color cast than the first image.

   The manual WB setting is not hard to use once you find where it is on your camera and well worth learning how to use.  Dig out your owner’s manual and then start playing with the settings – you aren’t wasting film!  You will then learn to capture the shot your eye is seeing in all it’s glory.
  New Author Bio - Ken Harris lives outside of Chicago IL on 1-1/3 acre of wooded land that is home to Whamadiddle Garden and over 1500 different cultivars of hostas. Whamadiddle is a slang name for a hammered dulcimer which is another hobby interest. Golf occupies most other warm weather spare time. Ken is a member of the Northern Illinois, Midwest and American Hosta Societies as well as Photo Editor for the AHS website and the Online Hosta Journal.
   Ken has given many seminars on garden photography throughout the Midwest this year and will be one of the break out speakers at the upcoming Winter Scientific Meeting in Chicago as well as a teacher at Hosta College come March in Piqua OH. Ken is a member of the Fox River Camera Club and the West Suburban Chicago Flickrers.
 

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