Lesson Of The Month
Modifying White Balance For Indoor Portraits

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Lesson Of The Month

1.

If you are just starting out with a digital camera or are making the switch from traditional to digital, you will do well to take some extra time to learn a few important principles of digital photography before you start taking pictures. Understanding the features of a digital camera (image quality, image resolution, ISO, focal distances, depth of field, and white balance settings) and how they differ from that of a traditional camera will allow you to greatly improve the quality of your images. (For more information on these and other photographic/digital processes, visit www.webphotoschool.com.)

Once you understand how basics work, however, you can then modify these settings to achieve unique, creative effects. Here, we look at a few different ways to set the White Balance in your camera for a natural light indoor portrait.

2.

While there are many different types of locations that lend themselves to portrait photography, living rooms with a lot of windows tend to work exceptionally well. The indirect light that illuminates a room is both soft and directional, which are both key ingredients for flattering portraits. The downsides to shooting indoors are that oftentimes there is not enough light to achieve a good exposure without risking motion blur and that you can't control the direction of the light.

To safeguard against this, it is recommended that you use a sturdy tripod and that you try to capture your subject when they are relatively still. If you don't want to deal with these restrictions and would rather not rely on the relatively flat look of built-in flash lighting, you might want to consider using softbox lighting, which replicates window lighting, but with much more light output and directional control. To see examples of these types of setups, visit www.webphotoschool.com.

In this situation, we had our subject seated on a living room couch where daylight shone in from many large windows. We set our Olympus C-4000Z digital camera on a tripod and framed up the shot (#1).

3.

When composing a portrait, it is important to pay attention to both the light falling on the subject as well as to how the background is affecting the elements within your frame. And as with many portraits, you might also want to choose a low aperture setting to throw the background somewhat out of focus, as this will draw more attention to your subject.

We first set the White Balance in the camera to match the color temperature of daylight (5500ÞK) to balance the daylight coming through the windows, focused on our subject and took a shot (#2).

You can tell from the result that it is correctly color balanced for both the model (natural-looking skin tone) and the trees outside (pale green). Also, notice how the light transitions gradually across the model's face while the background is very bright and somewhat out of focus, giving the overall shot a very summery feel.

3.

To see how a change in color temperature would affect the mood of the shot, we decided to set the White Balance to the Incandescent setting. Incandescent light (3200ÞK) is much warmer than daylight (about 2300ÞK warmer), so in effect the camera compensates by rendering the color values with a blue cast. And as you can see from the next result shot, when the camera records daylight from an Incandescent setting, it looks as though a blue filter has been passed in front of the lens (#3).

Remember that while this setting is technically "incorrect," it does create a different mood from the "correct" version. With a little help from our coffee mug prop, the blue color cast makes the scene look as though it was shot very early in the morning.

4.

To see how a change in color temperature would affect the mood of the shot, we decided to set the White Balance to the Incandescent setting. Incandescent light (3200ÞK) is much warmer than daylight (about 2300ÞK warmer), so in effect the camera compensates by rendering the color values with a blue cast. And as you can see from the next result shot, when the camera records daylight from an Incandescent setting, it looks as though a blue filter has been passed in front of the lens (#3).

Remember that while this setting is technically "incorrect," it does create a different mood from the "correct" version. With a little help from our coffee mug prop, the blue color cast makes the scene look as though it was shot very early in the morning.

5.

Next, we decided to swing the color balance in the opposite direction, so we set it to the Overcast setting. Since clouds, which are neutral in tone, filter the relatively warm light of the sun, the color temperature on an overcast day (around 6500ÞK) is somewhat cooler than that of a sunny day. After we adjusted the White Balance, we took another shot (#4).

Notice the difference in this result shot. Even though our model's skin tones are noticeably warmer in this result than they are in actuality, it does not look unnaturally so. In fact, the added warmth helps to render the skin and hair as more golden. This was a subtle change from the original, but it ended up being our model's favorite of the three.

Finally, we decided to rotate the camera for a vertical frame, take away the coffee cup and create a more interesting composition. We kept the color balance on the Overcast setting, focused and took a few more shots with different poses (#5 and #6).

6.

Technical Equipment

Camera/Media: Olympus C-4000Z digital camera; Olympus 64MB SmartMedia card; sturdy tripod.

This lesson will be posted in the free public section of the Web Photo School at: www.webphotoschool.com. You will be able to enlarge the photos from thumbnails. If you would like to continue your digital step by step education lessons on editing, printing, and e-mailing your photos it will be on the private section of the Web Photo School.
To enroll for WPS just go to www.shutterbug.net and click on WPS Free Lessons.

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