Get It Right... In The Camera; ...And Save On “Post”-Processing Time

Like most photographers, I like to play around and constantly explore Photoshop. But I'm a businessman, too, so I need to be careful about how much time I spend in front of the computer. The more time I spend there, the less I have for taking photos and marketing my services, and that's where I make money. So I've always adopted the philosophy of getting it right in the camera, even before Photoshop was born. With that in mind, let's see how we can get beautiful files that require little or no manipulation after the shoot.

Use Custom White Balance
Here's a recent shoot I did at the beach that shows why you should shoot with custom white balance vs. auto. I began about 45 minutes before sunset. The light, and the color temperature of that light, changed rapidly during that time. I shot the same model against green grass, blue water, and white sand. By taking about 30 seconds every 15 minutes to set up a custom white balance I was able to get consistent color and pleasing skin tones. And if I wanted to make a color correction, I could do it globally with all the files, since the color is consistent from file to file.

All images are from a beach shoot I did for my latest DVD. This shows me taking a photo of the BalanceSmarter for a custom white balance before starting the shoot. The other reflector you see in the grass serves double duty. I keep my camera bag on it to keep it out of the sand!
All Photos © 2007, Steve Bedell, All Rights Reserved

If I shot on auto my camera would be trying to make sense of the wide variety of conditions and colors. That means you have to correct each file individually, not a fun way to spend the night. You might even be better off to guess the color temperature and lock it in your camera, even if it's not all that close, since you could once again globally affect the change.

I use the BalanceSmarter tool to make my custom setups. It has a white and gray side, with a unique target in the middle that you use to take the reading.

Here I'm using my incident light meter. I place it at chin level and aim straight toward where the camera will be. Here it's tipped up because I'm looking at my reading.

Use An Incident Light Meter
I know some photographers who boast that since digital they've thrown away their light meters. Big mistake, because now you need them more than ever.

Let's compare digital to film for a minute. I've been "totally digital" for several years now, but when I was shooting film I knew it like the back of my hand. I used the same film at the same ISO every day. Doing outdoor portrait sessions I really didn't even need to look at the meter because I was so familiar with my film.