White balance. It’s more important than most people think – controlls the overall feel of the photo, most notably in regards to how warm or cold it feels. These days (and even with this old camera), the auto white-balance settings are not that bad. But by setting it manually, it can be much better.
So reviewing the options: most cameras come with presets for straight daylight, cloudy conditions, interior light, fluorescents, sometimes a halogen fluorescent, and (most of the time, unless you’re unlucky) ad custom setting. Look to the image at right – those are the exact settings in order from left to right. On this camera, to get there: presS the FUNC button, then move down to the second option (where the icon of the sun is on the left, arrow to the right of it). From here, you move left or right to select the appropriate white balance.
So, situations: in direct sunlight, definately leave it on the icon of the sun. This will work pretty well. Cloudy conditions, you’re thinking: go ahead & shove it over to clouds, right? Not so fast: that works well for landscape photos, nature photos, maybe flowers & buildings. But most of the time we’re taking pics of people. On an overcast day, I usually leave it on sunny when the subject is other people. This warms up flesh tones & makes the people look a bit more… orange, actually. But it’s that healthy orange glow that people like in their photographs.
Once you move indoors, you’d think you would want the icon that looks like a bulb, right? Move to indoor lighting. Again, sometimes true, but not always. That bulb is actually balanced for tungsten lighting, or typical indoor lights. But these days, you can get indoor lights that are daylight balanced – if you use the indoor setting for daylight balance, your photos will have a blue tint to them. Not good.
So, the general rule that I follow: if I can detect a slight yellowness to the light, I shift into this white balance. If not? Leave it at cloudy. Yes, cloudy. Cloudy is slightly warmer than most daylight-balanced bulbs so flesh tones come out well, yet it’s close enough that everything else will look natural.
The next setting, fluorescent lighting. If you see flourescent lights, use this. Flourescents give a slightly off-cast to color (usually slightly green), and you don’t really want people in your pics with a slightly green tint. Unless it’s your kids after gorging on candy. Then it’s normal.
Halogen flourescent? I don’t use this, actually. Ever. Perhaps someday I’ll rethink that.
Custom white balance is a pretty large topic. That will be covered in tomorrow’s post.