Pretty Dishes

White Balance Correction
November 28, 2010, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Photography

A couple of weeks ago I received my Seculine ProDisk II with white balance filter plus gray and color balance cards. This is a tool I wish I had had a year or more ago. It’s not totally practical for snapshot/action situations, but for food photography and other still life (or similar planned setups), it’s a dream come true.

White balance has long been my biggest trouble area, and it’s also the hardest to compensate for when post-processing in Photoshop. My camera and indoor lighting create an orange-yellow cast on photos that is difficult to “extract.” When I first got my Rebel more than three years ago, I used the auto settings for pretty much everything. Most photos turned out decently, and for any that were a little off, I’d do what I could to fix them afterward. Outdoor photos do well with auto settings due to the natural light, and shots of people typically look quite nice with warm tones. Since that was what I was shooting most of the time, I didn’t really pay much mind to the white balance settings on my camera.

Once I started shooting food, however, I became hyper-aware of white balance because of the color casts that were making their way into my photos. (By that time I was using manual settings for nearly all the main functions, but white balance was still something I didn’t fully understand.) The majority of food photos are taken inside, and though obviously a natural light source is ideal, it’s not always possible. Food does not look appetizing with a yellow cast. Photos of food with a yellow cast look amateur. And there’s only so much you can do in Photoshop to right that wrong. Not to mention how much time it adds to the process when you have to fix almost every photo after the fact.

As a result, I started to play with each of the white balance presets when I shot indoors with limited or no natural light. My go-to was typically the “tungsten” setting because it adds a cool cast that compensates for some of the yellow, and therefore it is usually the closest representation of a more neutral light source. That cut my Photoshop time roughly in half, but it still didn’t fundamentally address the problem.

The ProDisk was recommended by Lara at the photography workshop I attended. There was an abundance of gorgeous natural light in her studio, so it wasn’t quite as necessary there, but I was still able to create a custom white balance for that particular situation, which made my photos turn out all the better. I immediately added the ProDisk to my wish list.

When I received it, I was anxious to test it out and see what it could do. I set some produce on a white cutting board on my dining room table one evening (no natural light, no fill light, only standard overhead fixtures), put the camera on the tripod, and snapped a few samples. The results were pretty magical.

All of these images are straight out of the camera. This first photo shows how far off the “auto” white balance setting can be indoors. It’s terrible. Does this broccoli entice you?

This second photo is a little better using the “tungsten” white balance setting—you can see how the yellow has been toned down considerably, but there’s still a cool red hue that is causing the white cutting board to appear pink. It’s a workable photo, but nowhere near perfect.

Wow, what a difference. This final photo uses the “custom” white balance after I set it with the ProDisk filter. The color is a tad heavy on the cyan, but making minor adjustments in Photoshop would take little time from this starting point. And keep in mind that this is working with the worst lighting situation, so it only gets better from here.

In summary, I’m looking forward to seeing a greater improvement in my photos as well as spending less time using Photoshop because of this fantastic and simple white balance tool. The price point is moderate and well worth the time and frustration saved. I highly recommend it.

On a side note, the recipe index is now live and will be updated as I feature new recipes. Oh, and I gave in this weekend, but not without some trepidation. I’m sure I’ll forget about the steep investment once I snuggle up with those babies. . . .


2 Comments so far
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You can really see the contrast between the first and third photo. Funny how a little knowledge can completely alter the aesthetic of a photo, isn’t? Had I actually taken the time to get to know my Rebel before selling it, I would have learned this. :)

Comment by Tara

It’s true—digital cameras can do so much, and I’m positive I’m only aware of maybe a tenth of its capabilities. I did buy the little companion book that tells me every single thing the camera can do, but I just haven’t made my way through it yet.

Why did you sell your Rebel? Just didn’t use it very much?

Comment by prettydishes

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