Sound advice: How to set the white balance on a digital SLR camera

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2013 - 11:56 AM

Q: I have been photographing my daughter’s gymnastics tournaments with my new digital SLR. The tournaments are held indoors under artificial light.

All of my pictures have a slight color cast from the artificial light. I have tried different white balance settings, including automatic white balance, but none of them seem to give me proper color. How can I correct this?

A: You are on the right track with changing the white balance, but you need to be more precise than the camera’s white balance presets will allow.

Bring a sheet of plain white paper or white poster board to the next tournament. When you are inside under the artificial light take a picture of the white card or paper, using the zoom to fill the frame 100 percent so the image is completely of the white surface. The image does not have to be in focus as you are just capturing the color.

Look in your camera’s menus for the manually set white balance options. There will be a setting where you use an image to set the white balance. Select the image of the white sheet and use it to set the white balance. You will see the color cast disappear from the image and subsequent pictures will have the proper color balance. Don’t forget to change the white balance setting back to the usual setting when you leave the event.

This technique works very well for photographing portraits in the shade as it will render proper skin tones, or anytime you want to be sure your colors are just right. I use it with my digital SLRs when I use large flash units in my studio, setting the white balance using the white background.

Final CES recap

My last bit of coverage from CES is about Cambridge SoundWorks, maker of the $69 Oontz Bluetooth speaker I have highly recommended. Cambridge SoundWorks told me they would have some new products on display in their private meeting rooms, but I was completely unprepared for the sheer number of new products they are developing.

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