I have received quite a few requests to reveal what camera I use/what lenses I use/what my favorite food is/how I edit my photos. The answers are as follows:
In all seriousness, I thought that it would be easier for me to explain some of my editing tricks and photography tips by just posting them on the bloggy blog for all to see. (Not that I don’t love getting messages! I do!) So here we go with Lesson #1: White Balance.
First thing to realize is that the White Balance is your friend. Some might say it is your Best Friend. I might be one of those someones. You can take an otherwise totally terrible photo subject/composition-wise, but if the white balance is right… someone might hang it up in a gallery in New York where people will Ooh and Aah over your masterpiece and someday people will write PhD dissertations on your work. WB is that powerful. (To illustrate this point, this tutorial will include photos of Raw Chicken. Deeelightful.)
In a nutshell, the White Balance setting on your camera is what allows your pictures to look Natural and Awesome: it accounts for the type of light you are shooting in, otherwise known as your Light Source.
One area where you have to get the White Balance correct is if you’re shooting food. You want it to look delicious, right?! Right. Food will probably look gross if you shoot it in the wrong WB. Let’s take a deeper look, shall we.
Here I am, cooking Trader Joe’s Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Chicken Tenders in my kitchen with various lights on: the overhead lights in the kitchen, a little ambient light from the window, and the stovetop light (which is directly above the raw chicken.) I took this photo using the Tungsten WB setting since most of the lights in my Light Source Cocktail were from Tungsten bulbs (Tungsten is your typical household, “I have a brilliant idea!” lightbulb.) In theory, this WB should make even this Raw Chicken look good enough to eat. But….
This raw chicken looks gross. It is yellowy and muted and basically terrible looking. (Fancy terminology, try to keep up, OK.) I wouldn’t eat that if someone paid me (Note: you should not consume raw chicken EVER, no matter how much someone pays you. Unless it is $3.6 Million. Then it’s totally worth it.) Let’s make this Raw Chicken look delicious, shall we?
Ugh, gross! Even worse! My next thought to correcting the Gross Raw Chicken Problem was to think of the light that is closest to the source… the stovetop overhead light, which is Fluorescent. Fluorescent lights, as you can see, are usually TERRIBLE for shooting Awesome Photos, especially photos of food. So now what? WE MUST GO ONWARD.
You might have noticed the numbers on the photo above: 3900-4500k. This is the rough Kelvin rating for a fluorescent photo.
If you’re like me, you probably had to take Physics in high school and once you flew that coop you thought you’d never think about science again because AHHH HA you were going to be An Artist and Artists have no time for silly things like “science.” Oh, how quickly we learn that we are wrong.
Kelvin is the unit of measurement for temperature and for the color temperature (hue) of light sources. (Thanks, Mrs. Vail, for being the best high school physics teacher a non-sciencey person could ever have, and for drilling the Kelvin chart into this I’m-Going-To-Be-An-Artist-So-There’s-No-Reason-To-Learn-This head of mine.)
Kelvin ranges from 0-10,000. The closer a light source’s Kelvin value is to 0 the more orange the light… the closer to 10,000: more blue.
If science is not your thing, you might be tempted to use Auto White Balance.
YECH UGH GROSS BLECH RAW CHICKEN AAAAH!
Okay… So What Do I Really Need to Know About WB?
Mmmm. Raw Chicken never looked so good.
Next time, I’ll talk a little about Depth of Field and then after that… I’ll hit post-production editing.
Feel free to ask me any questions! Happy White Balancing!