A Lesson in White Balancing


I shot the annual Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) conference at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando last week and it was a white balancing nightmare! Truth be told, I shoot in RAW so I can always change the white balance in post, but I like to get an accurate representation of the image at the time of capture. It’s just a comfort thing, not to mention trying to get as much right in camera to begin with. Take a look at this image: (NOTE: for the images in this post, try not to focus on the content, but rather the color. These examples are pretty much out of camera with little or no editing)

VRMA Conference. Orlando 2011.

You can see how “orange” or “warm” it looks. That’s pretty much right out of camera. The warmth is due to the tungsten (incandescent for you Nikonians) lights overhead. So I switched from “auto” white balance to “tungsten” and while the result was better, I knew I’d run into trouble if I wanted or needed to use flash.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

In the image above I used fill flash with a 1/2 cut of Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel. Putting an orange gel on your flash essentially turns it into a tungsten light. So if you set your white balance to tungsten (incandescent) then the two light sources will balance. If you look carefully, however, you’ll notice that the waiter’s face still looks a little “cool” or “blue” in comparison to the room. So I added another 1/2 cut of CTO which equals one full cut and that did the trick.

The next day, I turned to using custom white balances for each room and that really made a difference.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

Compare the color of the walls in the image above to the very first image in this post. Actually, if you see that white board on the right side of the frame; that’s what I used to get a custom white balance.

I learned about custom white balancing as a news videographer right out of college. Back then, those big cameras didn’t have handy white balance settings and you couldn’t tweak it in post. You either set the kelvin temperature or you took a custom white balance every time you moved from indoors to outside and back.

In case you don’t know, when you take a custom white balance, you’re basically telling the camera what “white” is so it can set all the corresponding colors accordingly. Camera models vary, but to take a custom white balance, take a picture of something white that is getting hit by the light source in the room. If, for example, you have a mix of tungsten and daylight, take something white and put it where it’s getting hit by both sources. You might need to switch to manual focus because your camera may not find focus in something with no contrast. Next, go to your menu function for custom white balance and select the image you want to use. Then, change your white balance to “custom”. Don’t forget to switch back to auto focus.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

The classrooms (pictured above) were the worst! They really did have this weird orange color that seemed warmer to me than regular rooms lit by incandescent lamps. Not to mention, I was expecting fluorescent lights at hotel conference rooms. Switching from “auto” to “tungsten” didn’t help at all. So I just shot the white door at every room to get a custom white balance.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

Getting the right white balance is crucial if you shoot JPEG because you don’t have as much latitude in post processing to tweak it. It’s less important if you shoot RAW, unless you’re like me and want to see an accurate picture when you shoot it.

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Photographing 113 Homes in 9 Days


Collage of 110 Homes

I’ve been a little busy the past couple of weeks. I was given 10 shooting days to shoot the exteriors of 113 homes. If you’re counting, the image above only shows 110; I needed an even number to make the collage work. Click on it to see it bigger.

The first step was plotting the homes on map and figuring out the best time of day to shoot them. The LighTrac app I blogged about recently was indispensable. I was able to figure out, down to the minute, when the sun would hit each home at the best angle. Unfortunately, I was at the mercy of the weather. In Florida, afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence  which made shooting the west-facing homes a challenge. Sometimes, it would be too cloudy. Sometimes, I’d have good sun, but dark clouds behind the house. Other times, I’d have a good sky behind the home but a huge cloud obscuring the sun. As it was, I usually had to wait for a cloud to move. There I would be, camera on a tripod and me standing next to it looking up at the sky.

I do want to share one tip which I mentioned in a previous blog regarding shooting exteriors. Absent of a tilt-shift lens, you have to make sure your verticals stay vertical. Most people have the inclination to stand in front of a house and tilt the camera up. This makes the house look like it’s falling over. So I set up across the street on a tripod. I dial in my exposure manually, raise the tripod as high as it goes and use a cable release to take the shot.

In the end, I got it done in nine days. It would’ve been sooner if it wasn’t for the darned weather!

Adobe Photoshop Touch for Android Tablets





Adobe just announced a tablet application for Photoshop. It’s called Photoshop Touch and right now it’s just for Android tablets. That alone is a bit puzzling given the dominance of the iPad, but I’m sure it had something to do with programming on the Android platform that’s a bit over my head. Over on the Chase Jarvis blog, however, he says it’s coming to iOS.

The video looks like it has some pretty cool features including some quick search tools and compositing tools. I’m still trying to figure out who it’s for or what direction Adobe wants to go in. On the one hand, lots of  people use their phones to take pictures and then use apps to add effects. Photoshop Touch might be useful to an on-the-go photographer who can’t be tied down to a desktop or might not have Photoshop on a laptop. Then again, this initial roll-out seems aimed at the more casual photographer; giving them some basic tools to start with. Adobe also seems to be emphasizing the social sharing and cloud-based aspects as it did when it announced Carousel a few weeks ago. From the Photoshop blog:

Photoshop users interested in mobile design and photo editing will have the freedom to brainstorm and create in Photoshop Touch, and then access their artwork through the newly announced Adobe Creative Cloud to take it further in Photoshop CS5. Anyone can enjoy Photoshop Touch for quick social photo compositing…and share it out with friends.

Assuming you had an Android tablet, would you use Photoshop Touch?