Part of being a professional means taking control of various aspects of photography, not letting things be haphazard or fall to chance. For many years, it’s been really easy to take control of White Balance, but sadly many photographers still shoot with their camera on Auto – and then wonder why their images don’t quite look right. The solution is simple – learn to use an ExpoDisc, and use it continually throughout a shoot.
This video shows why I use one, and also the dramatic difference before and after using one on this shoot.
I’ve had many consultations with photographers over the years who have said things like, “I have the same camera as that photographer, but my images just don’t turn out as good.” Or, “What Lightroom settings can make my images look better.”
When I dig down though, their problem is almost always color related from the onset of the shoot. So the first step to fixing color issues getting things perfect in camera.
Perfect Color Starts In Camera
You need to set your color balance custom in camera throughout the shoot. A little device called the ExpoDisc is an amazing product, and makes this easy. Simply put it over your lens, aim at your light source, and use your camera to record a new custom white balance. That’s it.
For more detailed instructions, I have a full article and video below. It will walk you through each step so you can avoid common problems. When you do this continually, it will be a new habit, and you’re images will come out looking better from day one.
This device is small, easy to use, and should be a part of every photographer’s gear bag. I actually keep three in my bag in case I lose one, and I keep one on me to use throughout every shoot.
Even if you want a different color “look,” it’s still best to shoot manually in the correct color balance, then apply your effect later as I show in the video above.
Compare Before & After
Here are two un-retouched images, using just natural light showing before and after. The first image is shot with everything on Auto (auto white balance, auto exposure). The second image is with everything Manual (manual white balance, manual exposure).
The model is beautiful, but the first image is darker, and the skin tones are muddy. Notice how the skin tones and overall tone are also greenish/blue. Why? Shade is blue compared to the sun and there’s also a lot of green grass and trees reflecting color into the skin too. None of that is good. It looks amateur. We instead want pro results.
When we rely on haphazard lighting and camera settings, we get haphazard results. Some photographers will try to overcome this by just shooting more and more images, hoping that by chance something will come out. And of course there’s the workflow afterwards. Not having things right in camera means more work later trying to fix things with software and filters. And the more images you shoot hoping for something good, the more your workflow time is magnified.
It’s better, faster, and much more efficient to just shoot better images right from the start. I demonstrate how to use the ExpoDisc in the video at the bottom of this article, but the concept is pretty simple. Just hold it over your lens, point it towards your light source, and use your camera to record a new custom white balance. It’s quick, easy, and the results speak for themselves.
This second image has zero retouching or adjustments. Yet look how great the color is, and how wonderful the skin tones look. Nothing is muddy, the image is vibrant, and the background and overall look of the image is warm and inviting.
I’m using natural light for simplicity for this article, and I’m shooting in the shade for even light on the face (compared to direct sunlight). That means we have no direction to the light however which is a problem. The light is okay, but it’s not great. It’s just coming in from whatever haphazard direction. Now that we’ve fixed our color, we’ll address direction in the next article in this series.
Re-Train Your Eye?
However moving forward with better color, there’s one problem to beware of. Once you start doing custom white balances throughout your shoot, you may have to adjust your eye. For some photographers, their new corrected images may seem too warm at first, when they are actually perfect. Why? Because you become accustomed to what you see. And when photographers shoot Auto White Balance for a long time, they condition their eye to the cooler images they see constantly. Shooting perfect images means correct skin tones and typically warmer images, and doing this constantly will mean a better trained eye for color.
Finally, there are instances when a cooler or warmer tone is artistically correct. For those instances, I still do a custom white balance, then later in Lightroom, I tone it as I want to see it.
Finally, here is a full article and video showing exactly how to use the ExpoDisc step by step, and for different cameras too like Canon or Nikon. And here’s a link to buy an ExpoDisc from my friends at Arlington Camera.
And until next time, America.