Perfect Colors (Part II)

Last time I told you how to use a “gray card” to set your camera’s “custom” white balance.  Way down at the bottom of that post I mentioned that there was another way to use a gray card, but during editing rather than set-up.  This second approach will really come in handy for those of you who don’t have a camera with the “custom” white balance option.  All you need is editing software that has some type of “neutral color picker” or “white balance selector” or something like that.  Just check the help section of your software to see if this feature is available to you.  Chances are pretty good that it is.

My wife, Patti (click here for her Etsy shop), volunteered one of her dolls and a dress for this shoot.  It’s has some pretty basic colors (black, white and one particular shade of pink).  We set the doll on a table with Savage white (this is important) seamless background paper below and behind.  I placed a gray card up against the dress and “accidentally” left my camera’s white balance set to incandescent, even though there were no lights on at the time (I wanted an extreme example).  Here’s the result:

Wow!  That’s not at all what it looks like.  But do you see that rectangle down in the bottom right corner?  That’s a little section of my gray card.  In my editing program, I simply selected my white balance eyedropper tool, clicked somewhere in the gray card part of the image (it doesn’t matter where), and got this:

Yeah, that’s the ticket!  Don’t want the gray card in your photo?  Just crop it out, and continue along your way.

Now, remember what I said earlier about the “white” background?  Often you’ll hear that it’s just as effective to do this white balance adjustment using “something white” that happens to be in your photo.  The problem with this is that what you really should be looking for is something neutral, not white.  Want to experiment?  Feel free to download one of these photos, and try doing the adjustment for yourself using other areas of the image.  Try the white in the dress.  Luckily, it’s pretty close to what I just did using the gray card.  But what if you don’t have a bright white like that in your composition?  Well, you can try the white background, right?  Sure you can.  Go ahead, pick a point somewhere on the background and give it a shot.  What you get is an image that looks fine – until you compare it to the real thing.  Here’s where you have to trust me … the dress and the doll don’t really look like that!

So what are you waiting for?  Go get yourself a gray card already.  They’re inexpensive, easy to use,  and readily available at a variety of shops selling photography gear.  You can even pick one up in the “Supplies” section of my Etsy shop.

Until next time … Happy Shooting!

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