Monday, 23 May 2011

How to fix blue sky white balance - for free!

Yes! I've done it!

Firstly, I started Googling 'fix blue sky white balance'. Der. I kept getting answers about needing a special card that is printed in matte 18% grey, because the camera would see it as neutral. Believe it or not, those special pieces of cardboard cost about $30.

Now, I'm a cheapskate about things like that. So instead of blindly following the opinions of snooty amateurs in forums, I used my own knowledge of basic science... Those snooty amateurs are kind of wrong. As it turns out, what they are trying to fix is the *exposure* - i.e. the amount of light that the camera should be taking in under particular lighting conditions. A grey card may incidentally improve your white balance, but those people are missing the point.

To fix white balance, you need something white! (again, der)

Blue photos caused by blue sky are because sunny days (to your camera) are like walking around with a piece of blue cellophane over the lens. So, how can I counteract that? My preset white balance settings just don't go 'cool' enough.

That is NOT the most boring sky photo ever. That is a piece of A4 printer paper. It is *white*. Imagine if all your photos had that coloured layer of cellophane over them... you can't take out that much blue in Photoshop without ruining the picture.

Hooray! I fooled my camera into thinking that when it sees that colour, it is really seeing white. Actually, did I fool it, or was I just telling it the truth? I don't know.

In my Canon, these are the steps I followed:
  1. Hold paper at arms length, pretty much facing flat into the camera. Take a photo.
  2. Go into the MENU, and scroll to the second 'bookmark'.
  3. Go down to CUSTOM WB and press SET.
  4. It will ask if 'this' (the photo above) is what you want to use to set the white balance. Yes, it is.
  5. Exit the menu.
  6. Press the WB button, and scroll across to the CUSTOM setting on the right hand side.
  7. Select it, and you are done!
Note that my camera doesn't reset when I turn it off - so when you go on to take photos that aren't in the sun, remember to fix your WB again.

Hopefully that is useful to someone, and I'm sure all other brands have a pretty similar function. Let me know how you go - this should also work inside if you have funny coloured lightbulbs (like fluorescent, or orangey filaments).

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