Sample Lesson

SHOOT 2016 Week 10: White Balance

Photography often requires us to make the best of whatever light is available, even if it’s not ideal. Depending on the light, you may find that your images have an unwanted color cast. The most common example of this is tungsten or incandescent lighting, which is given off by common household light bulbs. When illuminated by this kind of light, images will take on an unnaturally orange color. This lighting problem, along with color casts from other light sources, can be corrected by adjusting your camera’s white balance settings.

This week, take your camera off Auto White Balance to practice shooting in a many different lighting conditions: indoor, outdoor, sun, shade, artificial light, flash or fluorescent. 

Above images created inside near a window on a bright day with no artificial lighting.

Most DSLRS have a variety of white balance options. The purpose of each setting to balance out an existing color cast. The “shade” setting, for example, adds yellow to your picture. Shooting in the shade would typically result in a blue-ish picture so the yellow compensates for the blue, ultimately showing whites as they are.

Fluorescent lights create a greenish cast, which when balanced with the “fluorescent” setting adds magenta. The “Auto” setting works by analyzing all the colors in an image and determining an average white balance. It can be unreliable in situations where there is extreme lighting or no actual white for the camera to use as a reference.

Kelvin is the measurement of color temperature. Kelvin is the proper name for how “warm” or “cold” something appears based on the light it emits or reflects. Its not as complicated as it sounds! In addition to presets that adjust Kelvin for “Shade”, “Sun”, “Light bulbs”, many camera apps offer the ability to set the white balance manually using a numerical amount. Light that is warm and glowing such as candlelight requires a low Kelvin setting. Light that is cool such as in the dark shade of a building, requires a higher Kelvin number. With a bit of practice, setting the temperature is as easy as the turn of a dial and results in the ultimate control over your white balance.
  • There are occasions when choosing the “wrong” white balance can actually enhance the artistry of your image. Over-emphasizing the warm or cool tones of your shot can give it drama. Instead of trying to balance the temperature with your white balance settings, the photographer can chose to purposely exaggerate them.  
  • Experienced photographers who are comfortable navigating white balance presets and Kelvin on their cameras are encouraged to practice this dramatic technique. Be mindful of your subject matter and apply it thoughtfully.  Just because you can control the white balance doesn’t mean you should make little babies look a strange, eerie blue, or kids on a beach look like they are glowing orange!
  • Photograph a person at night in a room lit with normal household lightbulbs. Can you get skin tones that aren't orange?
  • Find a building with sides in both direct sunlight and full shade. Shoot against both sides and compare results.
  • Add warmth to a shot taken at sunset by using your Kelvin settings.
Camera: Canon Mark III 
Shutter Speed: 1/800  |  Aperture: f/1.8 |  ISO 250
ShootAlong: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you located? Do you have children? What ages?

Of course!  I am located in Perth, Western Australia, otherwise known as one of the most beautiful cities in the universe.  Love it! I have two children (pictured here), Delilah - aged 6, and Camille - aged 4.  

ShootAlong: How would you describe your work to someone who had never seen it before?

Erin:  Pure, dramatic, and emotive. I tend to avoid fads, limit props, and focus on my subjects to let their personalities shine through the images.

ShootAlong: What inspires you as a photographer?

Erin The thing that inspires me most is light.  I'm so hyper aware of light and what it would look like in front of my camera.  I find myself going out to check the sunset almost on a nightly basis, just to see what nights would work best for a beach session, regardless of whether or not I have a session scheduled that day or not.  I'm always looking at natural light indoors and evaluating what I would need to do to make it perfect for a newborn session etc,  Light is everything in photography, and good light is by far my biggest inspiration.

ShootAlong: What is the best photography advice you've ever received?

Erin:  I think the best advice I've ever received is to sometimes put your camera down and enjoy the moment for what it is.  As a photographer, I don't actually take out my camera as much as I used to for my own girls, as I want to be present and build memories where I'm in the moment (and not behind a lens).  I know this is probably useless advice for those looking to learn more about photographing their own children, but it's an important point to remember!  

ShootAlong: How do you make documenting your family through photography a priority?

Erin:  Honestly, that is the one thing about becoming a professional photographer that is the opposite of what you imagine. The more you use your camera for clients, the less you take it out for your own family because the last thing you want to do at the end of a long week of taking photos and editing is to take MORE photos and create MORE editing.  It's terrible, but true!  

So what I do instead is to not pressure myself to use my camera on a regular basis (most of my family's everyday photos are documented on my iPhone) and instead plan a portrait session with the girls every 3-4 months.  I treat it like a regular session and end up with a beautiful collection of photos over time, without the stress of having to keep up on a daily (or even weekly/monthly) basis.

ShootAlong: Tell us about the image you've shared? What makes it special to you? What did you do to make it happen?

Erin:  This is an image I specifically set out to make in order to fill a canvas space on my living area wall.  I had a sunset beach image of my girls taken 3+ years ago on that wall and it needed an update.  So I bought the dresses, and carted them to the beach for three different evenings until I got the right combination of sunset and child-cooperation (which is MUCH harder than it looks with your own kids!).  Luckily, the beach is only about 400 meters from our front door, so it wasn't too painful.  

After all the trouble, I got an image that was even better than I had imagined.  It's now a 55" canvas on my wall and it makes me happy every day! :)

More about Erin: 
website |
facebook |
instagram | erin_elizabeth_photography
Newborn Posing and Business Workshops
Newborn Teaching Videos
(in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and Hindi)
Bio: Erin Elizabeth Hoskins, the founder of Erin Elizabeth Photography, is an internationally award winning family photographer and one of the world’s most recognized newborn photographers.  Using 100% natural light Erin Elizabeth has been creating beautiful works of photographic art for her clients since 2008, both in her studio and utilizing the stunning beaches of Western Australia. 

Erin Elizabeth also holds highly acclaimed newborn photography workshops for professional photographers throughout Australia and internationally, and has mentored hundreds of photographers from six different continents.  She has also recently debuted a series of very popular teaching videos geared towards newborn photographers unable to attend her in-person workshops.  

Born and raised in the United States (yeah, Wisconsin!), Erin moved to Australia in 2004 after graduating from University, not knowing a soul and in search of adventure.  One Masters degree, one husband, two daughters, and one booming portrait business later, she has found just that.
Learn how to lift shadows on faces to achieve a bright, natural look.
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