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  • Writer's pictureSue

Where do colors start?

Q: Where do colors start?

A: Before you take the first photo.

Getting the correct colors to look great in a photo, starts before the first photo is taken. There are steps a well trained photographer needs to take before the photo is taken to ensure the best results in colors and white balance. What is white balance? White balancing is a process a photographer takes to adjust the camera to read the colors coming into the camera. It helps to make the camera read colors correctly and not to have color casts that make photos look unflattering or flat and mucky. It helps to achieve a natural look. White balancing helps to make the colors to match the color of the light source so that white objects appear white.

When photographing in many different kinds of lighting and situations, such as indoor or outside, the light has to be assessed and dealt with within the camera. A full spectrum of light is needed to help colors produce well in an image. Poorly lit gymnasiums and certain nature light shooting situations are a good example of poor lighting not producing a good color balance. A well trained photographer will take notice of this visually and then make the necessary adjustments to their camera to have the best outcome they can have. Do all photographers know this or implement it? Unfortunately, no... Why not? Most likely, they don't know about it. They don't know how to make the adjustments in camera. They haven't read their manual. They haven't learned from a mentor. There are so many new 'photographers' out there that have just picked up a camera and take pictures. So many photographers that think that's all you have to do is click the shutter. They don't take steps to learn and grow. And what happens? They get photos that don't look their best. And then, YOU, the consumer and client PAY for these photos. There's also another reason why a white balance isn't done,, and that could simply be that the photographer forgot. Yes, we're all human. We get too excited to do a photo session and just jump in shooting.

How do photos look when they aren't white balanced?

Images may have a yellowish cast. They may look dark and dingy. Certain parts of the image may look green or blue-ish. Images can look - 'just not right'... If you have a 'feeling' come across you and you're not sure why when you look at a photo, it is probably the color that is off. You, the consumer/client, are not aware of white balancing and corrective color management. You wouldn't know for sure what is directly 'off'.. but you have a 'feeling' that something is not right.

This has nothing to do though, with an image retouched in an artistic manner. Some images are to 'feel' cold, so blue will be added. Or yellow to be warm. Don't confuse an artistic edit with a poorly done image from the start.

What happens if there's color cast after the photo is taken?

Hopefully the photographer or retoucher can make adjustments in photoshop to fix it. Sometimes if they can't, they will turn a photo image to black and white. Ever wonder why you're getting random images in black and white from your session? This could be what's happening. Will they tell you they didn't white balance and this could be the issue? Mmmmm,, idk if they would tell you! Fixing color casts in photoshop adds more work to the workflow. And sometimes it's pretty tricky to do. Some photographers don't even know how to use photoshop or just aren't experienced enough with the software to know how to fix it. It is best (and easiest) to do in the prep work before doing a photo session, to get the white balancing adjusted and correct. Can you ask your photographer if they're white balancing? You sure can!

Getting the correct color adjustment in camera can be done more than once during a session. If backgrounds are changed or if you change locations. All the surroundings you are in during a session, contribute to the colors going into the camera.

There's a short story I tell my clients as I'm white balancing my camera for their session of how I finally had enough of bad color casts in photos. If you come in, ask me to tell you it! You'll be glad I'm white balancing my camera for your session!

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